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Faith in Vermont: Oh! The Places We Didn't Go!

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Posted on November 3, 2015 | Blog Category:
By Faith Gong



It was early August, and our family’s minivan was midway across the Connecticut River bridge between New Hampshire and Vermont, headed home from a visit to Rhode Island, when it hit me: Road trips with our children no longer felt like extended torture sessions! In fact, road trips with our children had become…enjoyable!

I’d like to think that this is because our children are gaining maturity and patience as they grow up, but I suspect it has more to do with the fact that all of our children are now big enough to see the portable DVD player.

After that trip, I made a list of day trips for our family to take on weekends throughout the fall. There are so many wonderful spots within a few hours’ drive of Addison County, and we’ve explored so few of them because, until now, the drawbacks of a car trip with four young children far outweighed any possible enjoyment.

Included on that list were: Bennington and Brattleboro – never been to either; the Montshire Museum in Norwich, followed by a jaunt into Hanover (we’d done this before, but it’s always fun); the Almanzo Wilder Farm in Malone, NY, (we’re reading Farmer Boy, the third book in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, which is crushingly boring for our children, but which I thought might be enlivened if they saw the actual farm where the story took place); Snake Mountain or Buck Mountain (local, but we’d never climbed either); Hennicker, NH, where my maternal ancestors lived; Merrymeeting Lake in New Durham, NH, where my maternal relatives have a camp.

Care to guess how many of those places we actually visited?

One, and just barely: During peak foliage season, with friends visiting for the weekend from Massachusetts, we attempted to climb Buck Mountain. I assumed that the Buck Mountain trailhead would be easy to find. It wasn’t easy to find; we drove in circles at the mountain’s base for 20 minutes before some kindly walkers directed us to the trailhead.

Once on the trail, the six kids took off running and the four adults split up to manage the situation. When we finally reconvened back at our vehicles, we realized that we’d taken a wrong turn at some point: We’d gone up and we’d gone down, but we’d never made it to the overlook spot with its promised views of spectacular valley foliage.

Oh well, the kids had fun.

So, what happened to the other six locations on our weekend trip list?

Life with kids happened to them. Some weekends there was illness. Some weekends there was too much happening right here at home: riding lessons, sleepovers, local errands. And on the weekends in between, we felt too wiped out to contemplate packing everyone into the minivan for the day. We didn’t even make it to Middlebury’s big pre-Halloween Spooktacular, because the girls had coughs and the weather was iffy and, when it came down to it, nobody really felt like leaving the house.

The list, meanwhile, remained on my desk like a reproach: You are a lazy, terrible parent. You didn’t do anything interesting all fall!

Then I started to wonder why we tend to equate doing interesting things with good parenting; why, for that matter, we tend to equate doing interesting things with being good people.

I’m not suggesting that we should all lie around in our pajamas, although a day or two of that never hurt anyone. When I lament the value – the pressure – that our culture places on doing interesting things, I’m not talking about the daily duties that keep the world humming, like pursuing your life’s work, or feeding your family, or even enjoying recreation once in a while.

What I am talking about is the pressure to be constantly engaged in special, exciting, new and “enriching” activities. I certainly feel this when it comes to parenting: if my children aren’t signed up for music and sports and foreign languages, if I haven’t taken them to that concert or this museum, if I haven’t explored the entire state of Vermont with them before they graduate high school…am I doing a good job?

This pressure is embedded in our culture. Advertisers bombard us with their exciting latest models. Celebrities entice us in checkout line tabloid snapshots with lives that are never boring: movie premieres, beach vacations, weddings, new babies, breakups, more weddings. The internet offers us the entire world, with all its possibilities. We regale our “friends” on social media with our latest news and adventures. We are always getting up and going.

What value is placed on having the same phone you had five years ago? On having the same spouse you had five years ago? On spending a weekend sitting at home with your kids?

When flour is enriched, it’s because it lacks nutrients; if we’re feeling the need to constantly enrich our lives, maybe we need to take a closer look at what we’re lacking.

Someday, I hope to have all those day trips crossed off of my list. But I want to do them because they’re fun, not under pressure from the guilty parent voice in my head. Until then, I remind myself that those moments reading on the couch with coughing children, those drives home when I could appreciate the beautiful scenery I see each day, didn’t lack value just because they didn’t make it onto Facebook.   

 

Faith Gong has worked as an elementary school teacher, a freelance photographer, and a nonprofit manager. Since moving to Addison County in 2011, her work has involved caring for a house in the woods, four young daughters, one anxiety-prone labradoodle — and writing for her blog, The Pickle Patch.

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