Feeling connected is something we all crave. Which is why we are so attached to our screens. It gives us a feeling of belonging. A sense of still being a part of each other lives even though we are far apart. What happens when we put down the screens, and instead of commenting on someone’s status or tweet, we pick up the phone and call each other. I know, getting us to do that is like trying to convince a child to walk away from an ice cream truck empty-handed. Impossible without a tantrum. I mean if my phone is down I feel lost and NEED it to get fixed yesterday! However, maybe by disconnecting, we could truly connect, with each other and ourselves.
Z’s spring break planning was going nowhere. First off he got two weeks for spring break. TWO WEEKS! What was I going to do for two weeks?! We discussed traveling through Spain or Portugal, but to be honest, we couldn’t afford that right now. Also, the thought of being that busy just wasn’t what we needed in our life at that moment. Rob had been so slammed with work. I have been working on a particular project. Z had definitely had too much screen time lately. I felt like we were so disconnected from each other. I was ready to give up until Z came home from school one day and announced he wanted to go camping.
Rob and I talked about it and decided that it was what we needed. So we began researching camping in Europe. We ultimately decided that we wanted to go somewhere we could drive to. We agreed we would like to explore the Netherlands a bit more, we have been flying to these fantastic countries but had yet to really explore this great country we live in. Rob found a place a couple hours drive from us called De Pekelinge. It was perfect. They had an indoor pool with a water slide, climbing walls, indoor and outdoor playgrounds, bike and skate park, restaurant, and a market that had everything you could want.
I was able to, not so subtly, convince our friends Kim and Jason to join us. They have a daughter Z’s age and a son who is 11. I thought it would be great for us to all go disconnect together. Kim and Jay’s son, E, also brought a friend. This was perfect! We all would have someone who we could enjoy the same things with.
The day finally came for us to load the car up and head out. I think I was as excited as Z. I also had a feeling of grief, though. See my mom has always gone on Z’s spring break trips with us. This would be the first since she passed away. I was trying to focus on the excitement of it all, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing as we got on the road.
As road trips go, we turned up the music and began dancing and singing our way to the campground. About an hour into the drive, the song Sweet Home Alabama came on. As I was fighting back the tears while still singing, I found myself reaching for my phone so facebook could distract me. I heard Z in the back seat belt out “Rock and Roll baby!” This is something his mamaw had taught him. I had, however, never heard him say it without my mom singing, dancing, and prompting him to do so. He even said it the way she did with “baby” pronounced “BAEBAY.” I am happy I put my phone down. I shouted it with him as song after song seemed to be another one of my mom’s favorites. I felt so connected to my mom and Z at that moment.
As we pulled up to De Pekelinge, we were all so excited to see what our safari tent was going to be like, explore the campground, and Z was ready to hit the pool. I was really looking forward to getting away from the screens, work, and life and just being with each other. I didn’t realize that this trip was going to connect us all in a way that would last a lifetime.
After unpacking the cars and settling into our home for the next 4 days, the kids were ready to explore so Jay and Rob took the kids to see what they could find. Kim and I decided we wanted to read our books for a bit. I have said it before, there is something special about a friendship when you can sit together and not talk. Being able to connect with someone when your not even speaking means something a little deeper to me. We both were just so happy as busy moms to be able to relax and read a book. We didn’t need to talk at that moment. We got each other.
A while later, Jay returned sans kids. You could see the look of panic rising on mine and Kim’s face when Jay said Rob was at the market and the kids were somewhere playing. Our littles were running around by themselves!? Jay assured us they were OK; Kim, and I tried to chill out and trust that they were fine. A bit later the kids came running back smiling so big. They were just so excited they could run around on their own. It really was so safe that they could do that. I felt this rush of relaxation come over me, what was this feeling. I have never felt this before. I don’t have to worry about my kid getting abducted, or lost. It was amazing.
Later that night Rob and I made dinner reservations at the restaurant, Kim’s family decided they were going to cook dinner at their tent, and Z could not be bothered with leaving the fun, so Kim and Jay told us to go ahead, that Z could stay with them. Rob and I practically skipped to dinner holding hands. We laughed, talked about things other than work and bills. We flirted with each other for the first time in a while. Everything else seemed to melt away. As we walked back to our tent hand in hand after dinner, I remembered what a deep connection we have. Something that seemed lost because we were so connected to everything else instead of each other. I did not want to forget this moment.
The next day, when we woke up, I was bracing myself for an argument if Z asked to watch his show. He didn’t even ask. He just wanted to go see if his friends could play. My heart smiled so big. As we had breakfast and coffee, the kids blew bubbles, played paddle ball and sword fought with brooms. It was so beautiful to see them outside, laughing, connecting, and creating memories with each other. Z is still talking about it weeks later. That evening after dinner, we taught the kids how to play Red Rover, Red light Green light, and other games we played as kids. It was so special, and they didn’t find us lame! They had a blast, we all did!
The only place the kids could not go by themselves was the pool, which is where they wanted to be. So, Jay took them to the pool; Kim and I gathered again on her porch. Sharing champagne we talked and laughed, and even though we have done this many times (sharing laughs and wine), there was something different about this night. It seemed like our friendship was growing. I knew I could tell Kim anything, but at that moment, I truly realized how important her friendship is to me. How important her family is to mine.
The next day we decided that we wanted to go to Brugge, Belgium. It was only about an hour and a half from the campground, so we loaded up the kids and took off. The first order of business was to get Mussels and Frites, I mean we were in Belgium! Then it was off to the chocolate museum. As we strolled through Brugge taking in the absolute romantic beauty of this town, I was watching my friends, the kids, and my husband. Everyone seemed so happy to be here, at this moment, in this city. The only time a phone came out was to snap a picture. We were really enjoying being together. That is what connection is all about, right?
When I look back on this trip, I smile. Yes, there were times of frustration and annoyance, but they seem so mild to the connections that were made. Sharing things with each other, that would not have happened if we had not disconnected. Moments of bravery such as going down a waterslide for the first time with everyone cheering on, climbing through the playground with the kids just to reach a slide that literally dropped straight down, I was so terrified, but the older boys encouraged: just to do it! Playing card games, sharing meals, jokes, so many laughs, and even some tears.
We all taught each other something. Our littles got to be free for the first time in their life, sincerely, and we were leaving with a stronger bond than we had when we arrived. So I wonder if we just disconnected a little more maybe we can reconnect to what really matters.
Stay tuned for more adventures of Rob, Z and I…
“By setting aside time every day, we can leave the pixelated wilds and rest at least for a little while in a place of unplugged, authentic human connection.”
― Meghan Cox Gurdon,