With kids’ activities these days, it seems they are always being entertained.
My kids are no different. With their various teams and activities, they are at more hotels and special events than I can recall as a kid.
The game systems are always cranking in a house that is never too hot or too cold.
And with the relatives, it seems every gifting opportunity grows a bit. We tried, years ago, with “no-gifts-please” events. That was as successful as Pepsi Clear.
Entertainment seems more a way of life than a luxury. A friend asked if we got to the beach this year. That was 2010 and 2011. Disney was 2009.
These days, I’m less inclined to entertain my kids on family trips; I prefer to expose them.
When empowered to set the agenda on summer trips, I choose the summer experience route over summer entertainment.
Don’t think for a second I’m popular. Over one Saturday breakfast, I offered “Hey — let’s go do a neighborhood cleanup.”
Even the cats hid.
With summer 2013 rolling into history, I’m pretty satisfied with the experiences the boys had.
In April, they became the pride of an Ithaca, N.Y., neighborhood as we spent a week emptying an elderly uncle’s century home. From the first whiskey jug buried in the basement to the last trunk in the attic, they touched things they see only on “Storage Wars.” My son held up a blue poker chip and said, “This says Mickey Mantle. Who’s he?” ($60 on eBay).
During the Fourth of July weekend, we headed to the backwoods of western North Carolina. Their hands chopped wood, propped up an 1800s tobacco barn and dug an outhouse. They cooled their feet walking in a mountain spring and outran some cows in a pasture. Their eyes saw a real rodeo and real moonshine (allegedly made by legend Popcorn Sutton’s kin. ... I drank enough to only partially believe that).
Though their lips did not taste the moonshine, they did taste campfire-charred steak with the pine from below soaked into each bite.
In August, we rolled into Gettysburg like Gen. George Meade. There we encountered park ranger Bill Hewitt.
If you ever get to Gettysburg, you must track down his showings like you’re tracking a Springsteen show. Our band of 12 became his groupies, with seven of us even climbing Culp’s Hill — a rare feet in the August heat.
And in Bill, I perhaps found just a bit of meaning to what my kids might call my madness — experience over entertainment; purpose over PlayStation.
At Gettysburg National Cemetery, where 150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln walked, Hewitt offered a personal slice of Americana. No notes; just heart.
It worked for me; kinda worked for the kids.
See if it works for you. If it does, you can go to my blog on vindy.com where I posted the video of Bill and these words:
We get foreigners here, and they’ll ask me ‘You Americans, why do you think you’re so different?’
I try to explain to them that we don’t have much. We just have a couple of documents. We have the Declaration of Independence and our U.S. Constitution.
And that’s kind of the way we go, and that’s about all we have.
That doesn’t satisfy them. They want to know more.
I say, well, it’s a hard thing to explain. But maybe Abraham Lincoln did a little bit of explaining on that day he read the Gettysburg Address.
One thousand years from now, I say, one American is going to turn to another American and say, ‘You know, we have more to do.’
Do you think the second American is going to be surprised?
No ... not at all.
We always have more to do, don’t we?
Maybe that’s what defines us.
Abraham Lincoln talked about that: “Of the people, by the people, for the people ... Shall not perish from the Earth.”
That’s not just today; not 150 years, but 1,000 years — that still will apply.
We are all on a uniquely American journey.
It is different. People don’t like that idea.
But Abraham Lincoln talked about it:
Here in this backward country of some 30 million in a world of hundreds of millions back then, that someone would say “shall not perish from the Earth.”
It would begin here [at Gettysburg].
I don’t know if [foreigners] ever do get it.
But maybe they’ll think on it.
Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at email@example.com. He blogs, too, on vindy.com. Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.