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The Great Vacation Quest of 2009

There are many joys intrinsically linked to the process of parenting. Certainly there’s nothing like watching the light of understanding flicker on in a child’s eyes when he first learns to read. Or there’s the heartwarming delight of seeing two kids embark on the lifelong friendship of siblinghood. It’s a great joy and privilege for me, as a mother, to be a part of life experiences like these.

You know what else is a joy and privilege?

Messing with their heads. Sometimes, and only in good fun, and all in the name of a good geography lesson.

Let me explain.

We didn’t take a vacation last summer; like most families, budgets are tight, and we wanted to save up for something extra-special this summer. Hubs and I have been hard at work planning what will be an eventful (though still pretty frugal -- more on that in another post) vacation in July. It will be a trip with more than one destination, scratching a few things off our list of Things To Take The Kids To See Someday. They have known we’re planning something, but they don’t know the details.

My husband, in what was surely a stroke of parenting genius, thought of a great way to stretch out the fun. We decided not to tell the kids where we’re going; they’re going to have to guess.

Here’s how it works: Every day the kids get to ask one question. Not one question per kid, one question for the whole group. It has to be a yes/no question, and they have to work together to agree on the question they’ll ask. AND (this is where I cackle and rub my hands in glee) if they start arguing in the process of working out their daily question, they forfeit their question for the day. Since it’s a trip with multiple destinations, they have to figure out each one.

The last several days have found my sons huddled around an open atlas at the kitchen table, deliberating on the best way to solve this mystery. I’ve chuckled quietly to listen to them. My thoughtful first-born child is in no rush and thinks they should ask precise questions from the start. The headstrong second-born kid wants the answer now and lobbies for broad questions. The third-born, easygoing kid happily acquiesces to what his brothers choose. It’s like a little sociology and geography lesson, right there in my kitchen.

So far (and, I might add, without yet having to forfeit a question for arguments) they have asked the following questions, in this order:

1. Is it outside of our home state? (yes)
2. Will we get there by car? (yes)
3. Will we drive east? (no)
4. Are we going to the doctor? (The four-year-old kid sister threw in that one. No, no doctors, and the brothers still got a question.)
5. Is it in the southwest? (yes)

Of course, I’m not going to tell you the answer here, because my kids are sneaky little monkeys and they might read this post. Suffice it to say that they are on the right track, and I can tell from overhearing their discussions that they’re about to nail down at least one of the destinations. A couple of will be a little harder to peg, but that’s okay -- they’re learning and working together, and I have all the time in world for that.

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