John and Nathan Spangler in from of a waterfall
TOGETHER: My husband, John, and son, Nathan, hiked the mountains of Oregon this winter on a special trip together.

What we learn when we go

Getting away for one-on-one time with each of our kids? It’s our new priority.

Jenna and I went to New York City; I learned she was fearless. I had to scare her into paying attention and walking with me.

Nathan and I went to Chicago; I learned he worries about life. He was pretty sure we were going to die every time we left the Palmer House.

Caroline and I went to San Francisco; I learned she was a good friend. She’s all about the combination of friends and adventure.

Jenna and I also went to Louisville; I learned she pays attention and has good ideas. She could start a generator when no one else could.

But what I really learned on each of these trips was the value of getting away with my kids as they get older, one on one. Just us. Time to talk and observe and laugh, without competing sibling distractions. To teach and learn. At 15, 13 and almost 10, their years are slipping by more quickly, and individual time is more important than ever to them — and me.

Nathan and my husband, John, just got back from one such trip, heading west to Oregon to visit our nephew Matt and his family. Nathan had waited long and hard for this trip; Matt is his buddy, and Nathan has idolized him since Matt’s days working on the farm — when Matt was 13, Nathan’s age now.

Father and son hiked trails, saw waterfalls and tubed down snow-covered mountains. They navigated no less than six planes together, and worshiped at the church where Matt is a pastor. They hung out together, slept together and ate together. I’ll never know the full details of this trip — let’s face it, they’re both males, and their in-depth analysis has been along the lines of, “It was fun.”

But I know from my own experience that because they got away together, they’re closer.

And here’s the thing: You don’t have to get on a plane. These days don’t have to be big and momentous. Sometimes it’s time in the barn. Or the truck. Or the bin.

Time together, without anyone else. It’s what we’re learning when we go.

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