in the last several years, i’ve found myself in conversations multiple times with a dad of a high school guy who’s asking for input about how he should address the growing gap in their relationship. of course, some distancing between a high school guy and his dad is completely normal, developmentally.
funny example from the healthy relationship i’m blessed to have with my son — an exchange that took place while i was backing up the car and he was in the passenger seat:
Max: “You can back up further.”
Me: “No, there’s a bush.”
Max: “There’s tons of room!” (Then, continuing in a quiet affected voice, to no one in particular:) “I’m disagreeing with the male role model in my life because I’m an adolescent trying to establish myself, my identity and my power.”
in one of the earliest of that series of conversations with dads, i made a suggestion: you and your son need an epic adventure together. the idea took shape in my mind in the midst of me describing it: i’m not talking about taking your son on a ministry trip (or business trip). and i’m not talking about a night out. i’m talking about prioritizing something of a splurge in terms of time and cost. travel somewhere together where neither of you would likely go on your own. create an epic shared memory where you’re stuck together for a number of days without any other relationships to default to (spouse, siblings). the combination of epic-ness/adventure and quantity time will likely be massively fruitful. (i’m convinced that parents — especially dads — need to adopt a mindset that quality time only occurs in the midst of quantity time. you can’t really schedule quality time.)
since i articulated that idea in that conversation, i’ve repeated that advice a half dozen times to other dads. honestly: i don’t know if any of them took my advice.
but: even though my relationship with my son (who’s now 18 and about to leave the nest) is really wonderful, i decided a couple years ago that i should take my own advice. max and i started talking about what our epic adventure could be. my rules for myself on this were:
– this trip can’t be combined with a trip where i’m working in any way
– this trip would ideally be to a location neither of us had ever travelled to before
– max has a 51% share of the votes on where we go
for a couple years we’ve talked about going to iceland. but once we settled on spring break of his senior year for the trip, we ruled out iceland (too cold in march!), and started considering locations in the southern hemisphere. somewhere along the way, i mentioned the idea of easter island. after a ton of research, we agreed, and made our plans.
easter island is one of the most remote inhabited islands on earth. we fly to santiago, chile (where we’ll spend 24 hours on each end of the trip); then we fly five hours straight west of santiago to get to easter island. easter island has an extremely unique history — it’s the story of a culture that was thriving, with well over 15,000 residents. but due to a bizarre story of seemingly bad choices involving competition between chiefs to construct massive statues (some call these ‘tikis’ — their official name is ‘moai’), every last tree on the island was cut down. then the topsoil completely eroded. along the way, the population ate all the indigenous animals. all of this led to a societal collapse, almost to the point of cultural extinction (they got as low as 111 residents in 1877). today, there are roughly 5000 permanent residents of the island, with a little over half being descendants of the original rapa nui people.
i have the advantage of airline miles. so max and i can get to santiago and home without flight cost. our cost, then, included reasonable flights from santiago to easter island and back, and humble accommodations with a partial kitchen that will allow us to avoid eating out the whole time. and the splurge i chose was booking private tours of the island (which seemed so preferable to being on a tour bus with a bunch of other tourists!).
because of my work, max has had the somewhat uncommon benefit of traveling to lots of cool places with me. he’s been all over the US and canada and mexico. and he’s been to haiti, peru, guatemala, england, and new zealand. but those were all ‘my trips’ where he got to tag along. this trip is OUR trip, only.