I had an epiphany this past week. It’s something I hadn’t fully understood about our daughters up to this point. Now that I’m clued into it, I hope I can avoid some angst and frustration toward the girls in the future.
This realization struck me as we were walking through Split, Croatia, a Dalmatian city transporting visitors back in time with its ancient Roman ruins and narrow stone streets. Brian and I were fascinated and reading every informational plaque we could find. We snapped photo after photo, making the kids direct their fake smiles into the blazing sun. “Girls, look at this place! Isn’t it amazing?” Needless to say, they did not share our enthusiasm. They walked behind us without complaint, but the blank looks and slouching shoulders indicated they did not see the wonder of it all like we did.
This same phenomena has occurred in pretty much every city we’ve visited on this around-the-world tour our family has undertaken – we parents ooh and aah and the kids just uh-huh. Sometimes it makes me crazy. Really, girls? You really can’t see how cool this is? How incredible it is that hundreds of years ago people walked on these same stones and lived lives completely different from yours? What the hell is wrong with you?!
As I was contemplating how nice it would be to just lock the three of them in a room and explore Split without their bored expressions, I suddenly thought back to another period in history. It’s 1986. I’m with my family in Washington, D.C. and I’m following my parents from monument to monument. Lincoln Memorial, White House, Smithsonian. The Capitol, the Vietnam Wall, the Jefferson Memorial. I remember a lot about that trip and even though almost 30 years have passed, the details of it still stick out among my childhood memories. Yet, in looking back on it as an adult, I realize I was doing back then exactly what my kids do now. Taking it in, but not with the same amount of appreciation and awe as my parents probably hoped I would have for it. I wasn’t oohing and aahing in Washington, D.C. I was uh-huhing.
So, here’s my big epiphany. Kids hate looking at stuff. They don’t fully appreciate that a coliseum is 2000 years old or that a grapevine has been growing 100 times longer than they’ve been alive. They’ll look at it, they’ll follow us around, but they aren’t going to ooh and aah. The girls’ standard joke when we go to a new place is about how much Brian and I like to “walk around and look at stuff.” As we were driving into Dubrovnik Liv said, “Gee, Emily I wonder what we’re going to be doing here?” Emily comically replied, “Hmmm…I wonder, Liv…wait, I know! Walk around and look at stuff!!”
And you know what, that’s okay. They can tease us. They can look like they’re bored out of their minds. We’re not going to stop walking around and looking at stuff. Not only because we want to, but also because somewhere in those little brains, connections are being made. This trip and all of these seemingly boring walks past historic buildings are shaping their memories and perspectives without them realizing it.
Now that I understand their viewpoint a little bit more, the bored expressions won’t annoy me as much as they did. I was there once. I get it. But guess what, kiddos? Your Split, Croatia is my Washington, D.C. Some day you’ll look back and appreciate every minute of it.