Good news is, a friend accompanied me on that trip. It was hastily planned but she graciously agreed to join me. We loved very minute of it. The bad news? My two teens bailed on me and I caved in to their reasoning. In the end, my nine year old gave in to my pleas and came along for the ride.
We visited the Shakespeare museum, the Lincoln and MLK memorials. We walked around, discussed politics, some history, life and personal issues. We reflected on the past and future. We sat at the memorials and discussed the impacts of brave leaders and their legacies. My son was excited when he discovered we were standing in the exact location Dr. King stood when he delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. And he surprised me with some facts I had regrettably forgotten about the legislative process while walking through the Capitol exhibits. A very welcome experience indeed.
En route to DC, I questioned whether I should have allowed my teens to stay behind. This was supposed to be a family trip after all, but they chose to hang out with cousins and aunts than learn about their country's history. Was it a mistake not to force them to come along? Not at all. As I stated before, my daughter will be spending the summer in the DC area. This doesn't necessarily mean she will schedule any time to experience the area's history, but I'm hoping she makes some effort. As for my male teen, he missed out on a good trip but he spent some time with cousins he had not seen in years. They toured Manhattan together alone for the first time in his young life. He learned about bonding, priorities and the value of knowing yourself enough to fight for what you believe in - qualities both Lincoln and MLK possessed when they undertook to change the world. And change it they did. I could only hope my son continues to nurture his independence and resolve enough to help build a better future for himself and his peers.
My lessons were pretty valuable as well. I learned to let go and allow my children to be guardians of their own decisions. I also learned that I was in good company of a gracious friend who was willing to disrupt her schedule so I can accomplish my goals - that it's okay to be thoughtful and that not all martyrs are burned at the stake. I was also inspired as I sat on the steps of the Lincoln memorial and mentally replayed those scenes that captured MLK's speech that momentous day. I discovered that freedom and justice are not realized by laws passed by elected leaders within the confines of the capitol. Rather, they are made by individuals with a dream and a passion to elevate the wretched status of the disenfranchised and enslaved.
While I didn't make it to all the museums and historic sites on my list, my trip to NY proved to be as valuable and relevant as the ones my kids sit through in class. When they return to school this fall, I'm confident that this time they will contribute to the year's lessons.