I’ve mentioned that L and I traveled to Portland last weekend. What I neglected to mention—at least in detail—is why: We went to attend the bar mitzvah of one of my cousin’s kids.
The cousin in question is a relative I haven’t seen in 12 years. That means he’d never met L. It also means L had never met him, or any of his kids. Which means my biggest daughter was meeting some of her cousins for the very first time.
Any other kid might have been daunted by all this unknown, by the possibility of going to a party with 40 other kids and NOT KNOWING A SOUL.
My kid, on the other hand, relished the opportunity. So much that she told me to get lost.
To be honest, I couldn’t really believe my ears. It happened during the cocktail hour of the party—adults were asked to go upstairs to a rooftop deck, while kids were invited to party on the dance floor below. I wasn’t sure how L would fare, so I gave her the option of having me hang around. That’s when she dropped the bomb. Get lost, Dad. I’m fine down here. I’ll make friends.
It was a bittersweet moment for sure. On one hand, I was delighted she felt comfortable being so independent. On the other hand, I was heartbroken that she didn’t need me, especially since she previously has wanted me around for similar situations.
Still, I obliged. I got lost. Despite how difficult that was.
In the end, the kid had a blast. She made friends with her long lost cousins and some of the other kids in attendance. She hung with them at various parts of the rest of the night. She also spent time just chilling by herself, dancing and singing and watching others have a ball. She even participated in some of the games; when she was one of the three finalists for Musical Chairs, she pocketed $20 for her efforts (trust me, bar mitzvahs aren’t what they used to be).
On our way back to the hotel, around 11 p.m., L turned to me and declared it had been “one of the best nights” of her life. I couldn’t help but smile.
I’d like to think travel has played a huge part in getting my oldest daughter comfortable enough to have the kind of night she had last weekend. It’s taught her adaptability and confidence. It’s taught her how to step back and observe. Most of all, traveling has helped my kid get to know herself, an important part of any human’s personal development. It’s a fundamental part of who and what she is.
Some might say we traveled to this bar mitzvah last weekend. I like to look at it a little differently: We attended a bar mitzvah for which travel prepared us all along.
The distinction here is subtle but important nevertheless; if we are, in fact, the sum of all of our experiences, the more experiences we have, the richer our lives become. It’s true for grown-ups and kids alike. No matter how many new cousins you might meet in a weekend, it only gets better over time.