One Child/One Parent Trips

Over the weekend, I mentioned that I was in Seattle with my mom for one of our one-on-one trips.

For 15 years, this has been one of my favorite things that my family has done.

In 1999, my youngest brother Shepard was diagnosed with cancer and, after brain surgery, started a year-long course of chemotherapy.

Of course, that meant that he couldn’t travel at all; he was barely allowed to go to the grocery store, thanks to his practically non-existent immune system.

That spring, my mom booked a three-day cruise for my dad, who was in the middle of some craziness at work and desperately in need of a few days of naps and relaxation. Since a cruise is basically the same price for two people as one (thanks to room-sharing), she sent my youngest sister, Landen (who was probably nine or ten at the time), along with him.

She figured that Landen, as the most low-key of the kids, would be the easiest for him to take along and that she’d be happy to entertain herself while my dad napped.

When they came back, my dad’s comment to my mom was that he felt like he had a whole new connection with Landen. For those couple of days, he had nothing to focus on except her, and without two older and two younger siblings constantly around, they had more conversations and fun together than they had in years.

Since we couldn’t travel as a family anyway because of Shepard’s health, my parents decided they’d keep up this one parent/one child trip idea.

That fall, my mom and I went to New Orleans and it was the BEST trip.

We stayed in a beautiful bed and breakfast, ate dinner with a French family, visited the aquarium, toured the Mardi Gras museum, wandered the Garden District, and consumed our body-weight in praline patties.

My mom’s sister joined us for part of the trip, and that made it even more fun – I felt like one of the adults, instead of a kid barging in on grown-up time, and I’ve always felt close to my aunt since then.

After Shepard died, we resumed family travel, but we kept up the parent/child trips too. There wasn’t a rigid schedule, but generally each of my parents went once a year and it rotated through the children. We had some input on where we went, but it also depended on the season, price of flights, and other considerations.

A few years later, when it was my turn again, my dad took me to Washington D.C. and we had a great time visiting the museums and I did all the Metro navigating. We ate meals where I wanted to and I remember having a chocolate croissant every morning. He’d been reading a book about memory tricks and when we’d go back to the hotel in the evening, we’d quiz each other to see if we could remember the names of every waiter, cashier, or valet we’d met during the day.

My dad took Crawford to Chicago one year, and Merrick to Minnesota. I remember my mom going with both Merrick and Landen to Boston (on separate trips) and taking Merrick on a Panama Canal cruise during spring break while she was in high school.

A few weeks before I got married, my dad and I went on one last trip together to Milwaukee, where I was born and drove past the house he and my mom brought me home to.

After each of the three of us girls got married and moved away, the trips stopped, but then, in 2011, when Landen got married, Merrick did all the photography for the wedding, and, as a thank-you, my mom took her on a very quick trip to California to see an art exhibit.

They stayed up late chatting and visiting, and my mom thought, “I need to start these up again!”

And so, the next year, she and I went to Portland.

After that, she and Landen went to Connecticut, and then when Merrick went to Amsterdam for a blog event, my mom went with her and they extended their trip a few days to spend touring together.

And last year it was my turn again. Because of a new baby and a cross-country move, we ended up bumping it into early this year. Last weekend, we spent two and a half days together in Seattle.

It’s just a dream to spend that uninterrupted time with my mom – she indulges my love of libraries and bookstores, and we pick the best restaurants we can find to eat in. We stayed up the first night talking about our BFF Gretchen Rubin until two a.m. and I’ll totally overshare photos and details of that trip later this week.

We’ve talked about, when everyone has had another turn, doing a trip with all the girls and my mom, although that hasn’t happened yet, and eventually when Crawford gets married, my mom intends to add his wife to the rotation. My mom laughs that she loves it because she doesn’t have to wait until every third year to go – she gets to go EVERY year (although, since she’s the one that pays for the trips, she deserves it).

My dad also has mentioned that he plans to do one-on-one trips with Crawford once he’s back from his mission (son-in-laws, apparently, get to stay home with the kids while we jet off with our parents – sorry, Bart, Philip, and Adam). I don’t know if Crawford will get to go every year – I’m guessing he’ll be on the three-year cycle too.

My mom has said over the years that she feels like it’s been one of the best parenting ideas she ever had and I think all of us agree. She’s mentioned too that its good practice for the other siblings to not be jealous of one of us having a special adventure and knowing that our turn will come around and it will be fun, but also different from the other ones.

And Bart and I definitely intend to do the same with our children once they turn about eight or nine.

I cannot wait.

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  1. What a great idea! I only have one child, and he and I travel a lot together, but it's always to visit family. I like the idea of going on a trip and just spending time with him.

  2. This is such a sweet idea, especially for larger families to really get that quality one-on-one time!! So cute. We try to do this even now to a much smaller scale with date afternoons with one kid, but I like the trip idea even more!

  3. I love our trips with mom and dad so much! Also, Merrick was soooo nice to do all our wedding photography and everything else. Gosh, she was nice to say yes 🙂 glad you and Mom had a good time! It looked amazing!

  4. This is SUCH a great idea! I really really want to start doing one-on-one trips with my kids (once they are a little older). I've done some solo trips with each of my parents for various reasons and they've always been really special.
    Gretchen Rubin is totally my BFF too! LOVE her books.

  5. Wow, I love this idea! I would love to make it happen with ours, but we will definitely have to consider the financial aspect and make it a priority to save for so many trips. Or maybe we'll do road trips instead. 🙂

  6. That sounds like really sweet memories together. I always struggle with the one on one time since I have two girls and whatever it is that I can for one girl I also know the other one would love it too.

  7. My parents did this growing up, too! So many awesome memories. My mom also decided to do one big trip with each of us as our 30th birthday presents. I had a baby right before my 30th so my trip still hasn't happened, but we're happily planning a gorgeous trip to Italy that will probably finally take place next year when I'm 32 🙂

  8. I love this idea! I have only one child right now and if we have another, I'm nervous about losing the time with just her. This is a great idea.

  9. That is so fun. I would love to do that with my kids. It definitely won't be happening with my parents, since there are 9 of us and my parents are in their 70s!

  10. As a mother of three newly-married children, I love how your parents have transitioned a loved tradition to this new phase of life. So inspiring!
    (and I know what you mean about BFF Gretchen Rubin)

  11. Wow this is awesome! I love how young your mother looks… And with her three daughters married (and SEALED) and her son in his mission, please tell her to start a blog about parenting tips and how-to-stay-forever-young posts. I remember how you and your sisters talk about your wonderful childhood memories, how she likes fashion as Merrick, and made all of you fall in love with books, or overcome the loss of a son… It would be a hit! I already enjoy reading daily your and your sisters' blogs, but that one would really be amazing too. PLEASE tell her to do it! I'm already her fan!!!

  12. Really great idea! It's nice that you feel it doesn't have to be long to be worth it. By the time I/ my parents pay for a flight I want to stay long enough to make it worthwhile… But that prevents me from doing it at all!

  13. I love this so much. Especially the old pictures. 8 years old seems like a great time to start, and selfishly, I can't wait for an excuse to travel some more.

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