One dad… one son… one epic guy trip!
Our contributor, Eric shares about the the importance of going on father-son trips to adventure together and create memories. From counting down 100 days to spending three days in Thailand, he shares about his first trip with his son, Titus. With over 10 years of experience as a youth worker, Eric shares his tips on what we can do to be intentional with the time we spend with our children.
100 days. That’s how many days before 27 February, 2017 when my son, Titus (age 3.5 years old) and I sat down at the computer to book two seats to Chiang Mai, Thailand and set off on our first ever “guy trip.”
How do I know exactly how many days before our trip, you ask? It was at the breakfast table, for 100 days, he’d ask, “How many days until our guy trip, dad?!” So, I’d Google how many days left and show him the countdown clock that marked the days till our departure.
Eventually, the clock said 0 and we were finally on our way! We spent 3 full days eating our way through Chiang Mai, visiting the zoo and markets, swimming in the hotel pool, watching Thai cartoons neither of us understood, playing board games and visiting some ancient temples. We also had an amazing opportunity to learn to care for elephants together.
The experience was awesome for our relationship, and honestly, I got to reap the benefits starting back even 100 days before we left. Just knowing something special was happening for him, made Titus feel valued and loved. It ultimately wasn’t about the place or how much money was spent, it was about our relationship and friendship.
If you asked Titus what his favourite part of the trip was, he wouldn’t say the incredible food, the centuries old temples or even the elephant visit. His favourite time was in our hotel, jumping on the bed together, playing boardgames we brought, endless trips to the swimming pool and playing with the toy train he bought in a night market. We wasted away time together in a way that Hong Kong rarely allows, and walked away from those few days with a new fist bump and great memories together. And above all, Titus was reminded how cherished and valuable he was, and that his dad loved him for just being him.
Looking back on this experience, here are a few thoughts I have about the importance of being intentional with having fun and nurturing your relationship with your little one.
Whatever age your child is, now is the perfect time to start being intentional with them. In the earlier days as a parent, you have positional influence over your little one (meaning their daily necessities are met by you). As your child enters adolescence and beyond, you’ll need to lean on a relational influence more and more (the focus is more on your friendship and mutual respect). Getting away for a few days just to have fun and nurture that relationship can be a kickstart in the right direction.
Regular Time Together
Our guy trip actually emerged out of our regular “guy time” which happens every Friday when I’m able to grab lunch with my son. We’ve raided bakeries and milk tea shops, and found out we both love dumplings and Vietnamese food. Listen well to what your son or daughter wants to do, and then start exploring together in your own backyard.
Read more: 50 Things to Do with Your Kids in Hong Kong
Say Meaningful Things
The best and most meaningful things you can say to your child are usually both honest and specific. Try to level up from the generic, “You’re great,” to something a little more thoughtful, like, “It’s pretty awesome how you looked out for your friend last week when they needed it. You’ve always had a strong sense of loyalty.” Address specific qualities about your child that you admire – it will make a world of a difference to them.
Keep it Flexible
Plan opportunities, not an itinerary. Out of our three days there, we really only had one commitment (the half day with the elephants) and the rest of the ideas were simply opportunities I presented to Titus. I say “opportunities” because I really wanted this trip to be about him, our relationship, and what he found to be fun. The last day, Titus just wanted to stay at the hotel and swim, and hit up a local playground after lunch.
Pass Something On
Why? Because there are things that I want to pass on to Titus, and none of it will happen by accident. Things like: faith, what it means to be a man, ways to enjoy life and take risks, how to travel-hack and the miracle of Mexican food. All essentials for a life well-lived, in my opinion!
This is also a great chance for your child to hear stories about you that they’ve never heard. Often parents know everything about their kid, and their kids know very little about their parents. Help your child to see that you too were once spontaneous, athletic, worried, had a life or made a mistake. This will go a long way in nurturing that relationship. Be creative, find ways to offer encouragement to your kids and adventure with them.
Here’s to making memories with your children!
All images by Eric Farmer