Family trips can be concerning and cathartic or devastating and a disaster
This trip was a little of both. The family I had gotten away from for most of my adult life was back in my life. They were distant but open to my grandson and me. Learning to navigate in this type of situation is a challenge but also rewarding. You have a few moments where you can see through the other person’s eyes, understand family dynamics, and contemplate your past or childhood. You hear stories that your parents did not tell, and if they did, it was only a portion of the story. You also find out things you knew but were never discussed.
On this trip, I was able to see from my son’s perspective, I learned some truths regarding my parents, and I understood an aunt’s grief I never knew she had. I was able to introduce my grandson to people and a place he would not have had the opportunity to meet before. He made friends and relationships he did not have at home. He also had the chance to see a different kind of life- one in the south, a little more conservative, laid back, and almost judgmental. He was introduced to a few friends who did not know of his sensory processing and just accepted him, he became frustrated at one point, but it was a win-win as I saw it. No meltdown, no destruction, and no tantrum. So, all in all, a good confrontation and new growth.
He also learned some history of our nation and the undercurrent of the black-white conflict. He saw a real plantation, learned about slavery up close (as much as possible in this time and day), and began to understand the issues went way back- before Martin Luther King Jr or Ferguson Saint Louis. Booker T Washington was main on our list of places to visit. https://www.nps.gov/bowa/index.htm
He saw pictures of young boys his age working the fields, heard stories of families separated, and the living conditions they had to survive. He was tired when we finished our trip to Booker T Washington’s birth home. He has some questions but was quiet and thoughtful. Once we are home, we borrow a book from the library to review his life and successes. We will probably wait to publish our video on his birth home until Black History month as a celebration to a man.
We also visited the D Day National Memorial on our vacation. https://www.dday.org/
It was fantastic and beautifully done. Honor to the men who died on that day is something we may publish on Armed Forces Day. As a member of a military family that goes way back to the American Revolution, it is not surprising when my grandson becomes fascinated with the exhibits and memorials depicting war or soldiers. He was in awe at the sculptures and facts regarding D-day. He was intent on letting all his viewers on Facebook know about the memorial. He was mesmerized by the docents who spoke on the different areas. He devoted in his prayer for the families of the deceased.
We continued our discovery of the area and all the history, which is our countries foundation.
While on the exploration, we visited Thomas Jefferson’s retreat home. https://www.poplarforest.org/
We expected to see something a little different and would have enjoyed looking a the furniture and furnishings he may have used. The focus here was the structure and architecture used by Jefferson. Rebuilding the house to its original state and only pictures of most of the furnishings and a few samples for tourists to admire it was different than we are used to but still very interesting. Some parts of the house not completed replicated it as Jefferson had it in his time due to changes in his design as he worked on it. We enjoyed the building and the time in the gardens. Christian enjoys looking at rocks, buildings, and woodworking, so it was not a disappointment. I did accidentally delete the pictures and needed to try to retrieve them.
One thought that continues to nag at me it the temperature of our nation. We as a nation are destroying our foundations and the structures of remembrance that made this country. I am not condoning slavery, and I would never say we needed slaves as I am against the idea. However, visiting Jefferson’s home and knowing he had slaves makes me wonder if anyone will enjoy the architecture of the house and the building of it in that time as impressive as we thought it was or if they would only see he was a slave owner? Christian and I always discuss slavery and how indentured servants were also allowed, which is wrong; I explained how slavery started and how it was cruel and horrible for families. We also discussed the abuse related to slavery.
We also discussed how destroying our countries heritage is wrong. If we eliminate what makes us mad or what we feel is injustice, it will allow others to act in violence toward injustice. It will also have us forget unfairness or prejudice. As a human, we never want to forget WWII and the Holocaust. Once we minimize or ignore what happened, we allow others to act inhumanly toward one sect of people because of race, color, or religion. This action is unacceptable.
While helping children learn to understand their heritage and limitations, it seems essential to help them know what others have had to overcome. Surprisingly, we do not allow our children to appreciate their uniqueness and be ok with it. Each person has something that makes them unique, an individual strength or weakness, which gives them the ability to be different. Being different is not a bad thing, it is just different, unique, and maybe a bit odd. It gives us something to overcome, which strengthens us- like the caterpillar who turns into the butterfly. If we help the butterfly out of the cocoon, it will die. Helping our children can paralyze them; we can hinder their real growth, limit their creativity, and delay knowledge.
What do children need to know about their heritage? That is a question for each parent to decide, however, while choosing to think about the life lessons we are teaching them. What do we want our children to carry on to the next generation? What do we need them to remember so they can change? This vacation was a little different and full of family secrets, life lessons, and history wrapped up in fun!
Virginia is full of history and beautiful scenery, making decisions on where to go was finding what was open? With Covid-19, it is more social distancing and having fun while doing it. Our trip was a week, and it could have been longer just to get all the sights in. Next time we need to run over to Washington DC, up to Philly and Lancaster, and on to the beach. Most of this area is our history of American’s. It is our heritage as a United States citizen. All families have some good bad and ugly in their history, and the United States is no different. We can’t take the nasty out and shield our children from it. We need to let them see what is real, how people lived, and what they did to decide how they want to move forward in the future. Knowledge is power, and it is our responsibility to train and empower our children to make positive and healthy choices for all people.