Vistas are beautiful, but people make the journey

My wife and I returned yesterday from a wonderful trip to New England. Flying into Boston, we ventured north to Maine for a few days returning to Boston for a brief visit then traveling southwest to Connecticut to see more family. The vistas and scenery were terrific, but what made the trip so special was visiting with our nieces, nephews and friends.

Our first stop was in Bar Harbor, Maine, which is quite the place. It sits on an island reached by driving, that mostly consists of the Acadia National Park, a true treasure. On Saturday, we met up with our niece and nephew (and his son) who live in Maine. Our niece loves showing her favorite place off to visitors and she traveled up from Portland to be our tour guide.

We all met at her favorite breakfast restaurant.  We hiked two separate gardens – Thuya and Asticou gardens – and then ventured into the park to see lakes, mountains, beaches and beautiful scenery, returning to Bar Harbor for an early dinner.Spending all day with them was a treat and allowed us to get to know them. We had never met our great-nephew and not seen his father in over ten years.

On the way to Boston, we hugged the coast at the suggestion of my wife’s brother and saw more vistas and extremely quaint towns. Boston offers so much, but our time was limited as our relatives in Connecticut said they would love to have us stop by for dinner before we left. So, we did two walking tours downtown probably walking as much or more than we did in Maine.

Like true world-class cities, Boston has beautiful parks in the downtown area, the Public Garden and Boston Commons. Later we visited the Back Bay Fens Victory Garden, which is a few blocks from Fenway Park, the famous baseball stadium. Boston is a pedestrian friendly city with wonderful architecture, restaurants, river and bay shorelines and markets. We did do the Quincy Market, which is a treat and went down to the bay. I realize we had only a small taste of Boston, but it was nice.

Our final destination was to drive past Hartford to a small town in western Connecticut. There we saw another niece who had moved with her two kids to her mother’s, who we also know. Our niece had to separate from the children’s father and was living with her mother, her mother’s second husband and their two kids. We had not seen our niece in over ten years and had not seen her mother in 31 years, as she was in our wedding along with our niece.To say we had a delightful time is an understatement as my wife was good friends with the mother. Her husband and other two children were a delight as were our niece’s kids.

The reason we had not seen them is divorce affects more than just the couple. My wife’s brother, who is the father of the children, lives near us and we love his third wife dearly. The niece in CT was his first child and my wife became friends with her mother. After their divorce, my brother-in-law married his second wife and had two children who were our tour guides in Maine. So, we lost touch with his kids and his first wife, who he remains very amicable with. This trip was so meaningful and exceeded our expectations to reconnect. We sensed that they enjoyed reconnecting with family, as well.

I mention this has it is never too late to reach out. Don’t miss the opportunity to reconnect. Seeing his first wife after thirty-one years is now a treasured experience and we have invited them to come down. It was truly like old times and she looked forward to our visit as much as we did. While we had just seen one of our nieces after a long  ten year hiatus, seeing her with her brother in Maine was truly joyful. These two lovely days made the trip even more worthwhile, even more so than the beautiful vistas.



They did not invent families, people made families

The above is a quote from a grade school child who is part of a divorced family. For someone who is about nine years old, I think it speaks volumes. I caught a documentary on HBO that is called “Don’t Divorce Me! Kids’ Rules for Parents on Divorce.” This show is both illuminating as well as heartbreaking. It also shows how kids have to grow up more quickly when divorce occurs.

As one young girl said, “First, you cry a lot and get scared. Then, eventually you learn to live with it.” The point of the quote is divorce requires you to make your family work. The parents and eventually step-parents can make the lives of the children miserable or the best they can be under the circumstances. A few rules came out of the mouths of these children which are helpful to reflect on, even if the parents are not divorced.

Don’t take out your anger with each other on the kids.

– Try to live close enough to one another, so it is easier to be with both.

– Remember to spend time with the kids.

– Treat the other parent as nicely as you can.

There are more rules, but these are the four key takeaways that I gleaned. On the second point, they asked one child where he lived and his response was telling – “I live in the car.” He is constantly being shepherded from one parent’s house to the other’s and to various events in-between.

Yet, let me add that if you erase the discussion about divorce and insert the traveling in the car for the second rule above, these rules can apply equally to parents who are not divorced. Think about it. If we do these things as parents, regardless of whether we are married or divorced, the children will be better served. My wife and I are by no means perfect and have made mistakes as parents. One of the things we insist on is being civil to each other in our house, whether it is among siblings or adults. Another is being on the same page. When an issue arises with one of our children, we parents talk about the best way to approach the child or apprise the other of what we said or did for reinforcement, validation or to ask “did I handle that well?”

The final point above is to spend time with your kids. This is something we all could be better at, the writer included. I would also suggest to not over schedule your children in team sports, plays, music training, etc. If your child is in three things outside of school at one time, that is at least one to many, depending on the amount of practice time. The parents and children get frazzled and are being chauffeured from practice to practice. What suffers is the family meals, which are one of the few areas we try to get right and I would highly recommend to any parents. Plus, frazzled parents make less effective parents as they are stressed and will say or act out in haste.

Being a parent takes an effort. If I could add one rule to the above it is to remember your sense of humor. Parents are not perfect, so we should not expect our kids to be. They will mess up and make mistakes. They will do stuff we did as children or will disagree with our points of view. I shared with our Australian friend Judy (who writes an excellent blog called “Raising the Curtain” at ) that my wife and I started sharing our mistakes with our children to show that we are not perfect, survived and learned from our mistakes and can look back on them and laugh. Our kids react well to these anecdotes.

“They did not invent families, people made families.” These words are quite profound. From the mouths of babes…