Learning to RV, and not the way you think


You have heard them say it, I’m sure you have:

“We spent a month camping/boondocking/mooch-docking in our kids driveway and all we saw were the grand-kids.  The kids keep saying, ‘But dad, we work all the time.’ I wish we’d had more time with our children”

I never quite know what to say in response.  Perhaps because I don’t want to be cruel and say what I really think.

You see, I’m convinced that one of the things we RV’ers have to learn is …

How to be away from your family

That is particularly if you are among those 1 million Baby Boomers they say are retiring each day now.  It is my generation that was called the ME Generation.  We have been conspicuous consumers all our lives and we have also been extremely self-centered (as a whole — sure there are the exceptions).

Since our daughter was born I have tried to continuously readjust my behavior towards her as she grew.  A parent can’t treat a child the same way all the way through their life.  Children change and parents change and those changes demand alterations in the relationship between any two people — ANY two people — even parents.

When our daughter was about 13 we had a bit of a kerfuffle about something or another and she really put me in my place.  “Dad,” she said to me, “you raised me so that I would learn how to make good decisions, now that I’m starting to make decisions you can’t change the rules on me.”  And she was right.  Those words stung harder than any slap on the face.  But she was right.

Being aware of the times in life when I have to change MY behavior hasn’t been easy, and it’s never easy for anyone.  Not even when the parents are older (let’s not say “OLD”), and retired.

Wesley Memorial HospitalOur grand-one is in her early 20’s now.  At her age I was married, living in Chicago, doing my alternative service for the draft board and making a pittance — in 1968 I started work at Chicago Wesley Hospital (now part of the great Northwestern Medical Center) making… yup… $1.98 an hour and I had to commute to the cheapest apartment we could find and do all the other things newly weds had to do.  In those days I was a confirmed chauvinist and I didn’t want my wife to work — and we got along on $1.98 an hour (+ a little from what we both had in savings) until I happened to have a good boss who moved from the Materials Management Department to Information Services and took me along and I got a slightly more livable wage for about 6 months of my required 2 years.

The point being that we were on our own.  We lived 100 miles from my parents and 200 miles from Peg’s parents.  There was no magic in the proportions there (chuckle) that just happened to be where Chicago was! My parents came down once a month for a meal (that they took us out to) and to spend some time together.  My mom at the outset was quite antagonistic to the idea of our marriage; mostly my fault — I handled announcements and such in a really crappy way — and all she saw was some girl ruining my life.  What she didn’t know was that I was the one ruining the girl’s life (just joking) because I certainly wasn’t prepared for what marriage was all about — who is at 19.  But my dad was happy for us — he could see way beyond the obvious and he embraced Peg from the Get-Go.  Eventually my mom did too (within a year or so).  And to this day we laugh about the walk my dad took with Peggy and I  the day he met her.

Dad wanted to get to know Peg, and not being a talkative guy, and not wanting to compete trying to get in a word edgewise with my mom, he suggested the three of us go for a walk.  Sometime during that walk he looked at Peg and said, “Well, one thing for sure, life will never be boring with Peter.”  If he only knew.  And to this day Peg will tell me, “You know you don’t have to try to keep if from being boring, with you around it just happens.”

So, my parents came to visit maybe once a month for an afternoon.  Peg’s parents didn’t visit quite so often, maybe twice a year and they would usually stay over one night, sometimes not even that (we had no SPACE to put them) .  But that doesn’t mean we didn’t see them more often.

I know it’s not the case, but in retrospect it began to appear that every weekend we were going to visit one parent or the other.  I know that wasn’t the case, because even at $0.19 a gallon for gas we couldn’t afford to go anywhere every weekend.

201204081019FAMILY6888
Eventually we moved to Ohio for two years where I managed a Locksmith shop, then back to Geneva Illinois where I had an office job, then up to Milwaukee after I  bought my first semi on a hokey plan with North American Van Lines New Products Division.  Once I was on the road and we were in Chicago we quickly realized that with a 2 year old baby and no family nearby that would be terribly hard on Peg and Kathryn — so we ultimately moved up to Milwaukee. I continued driving for a while, new products, then reefer freight and finally flatbed freight. 2012022918122856

You may ask where am I going with all of this….  and that’s a good question… probably the same question TWO sets of parents were asking:  “what are the doing and where are they going and are they ever going to get their life in order?”  (my words not theirs)

I bring this up because they had to struggle the same way I/we had to struggle in learning to WATCH our daughter, and to continue loving our daughter while she was ‘figuring’ things out her own way.  And man, it takes a lot of love to let go:  to give another human the time, and the ‘power’ to live their own life and become who they are supposed to become (not who I might want the to be — which is the problem my mom had)

RV’ing flips the equation on it’s head

That day when you drive away from the place that used to be your home knowing that you might be ‘property-less but not home-less’ your relationship to your family and all your former friends changes forever.

Suddenly you have the power to ‘drop in’ on them any time you choose.  Not any time they choose, but any tie you choose and that changes the relationship significantly.  Friends you may have kept in contact with for years — but friends who chose to move away from you suddenly become prey to your whims.  Yeah — I know, I’m being a bit harsh here — but the fact of the matter is that those friends made a conscious choice that what they were moving to was more important in their lives than hanging around with you wherever you were.  And even though they may have kept in contact that doesn’t mean they wanted to be bosom buddies.

Family too may have moved away.  Our daughter and her hubby only live about 15 minutes from our former home. But the Grand-one, she couldn’t wait to get out of Milwaukee — just like me.  She moved to Chicago, then to Minneapolis.  Nothing was ever said about wanting to be away from mom and pop, she wanted to be closer to something else.  And that’s natural.  But how does a parent take to a child’s adult decisions?

How indeed? We’re fortunate in having a very close family.  Most of the time we’re happy to be with each other and the distance between us always seems to be a dastardly problem to getting together.  We look for ways to get around the distance and we manage as well as we can — but then we are together for a short time and then apart again.

Even in our annual returns to Milwaukee we stay in a campground — not with our daughter.  We could.  We are welcomed with open arms and hearts the times we ask to do so — like last March when Peggy needed some medical attention — but most of the time we want them to live their own life so we don’t ask.  We have plenty of time to  get together during a month and we’re happy to do so.

Expectations

I don’t know what other RV’ers expect of their children (or their grandchildren).  That’s none of my business.  As is how they manage their family relationships.  sognare-ad-occhi-aperti1What I am saying is that as soon as you hit the ignition on your RV for the first time and take off down that driveway your relationship to the people you are leaving behind changes — by your actions you have changed the rules on everyone in your circle of friends and family — and it’s up to the person doing the changing to figure out what that means to them, and to their loved ones.  It’s OUR responsibility because WE are the ones doing the changing.  They are home in their houses wondering what the heck is going on with mom & pop, or with their friends and they are the ones who could have every right to feel either:  betrayed (if left behind) or put-upon (if regularly visited when they didn’t actually want you around).

There are no sign posts.  But the evidence will be there for anyone who chooses to look.

And the trick is, who is this relation about?  Is it about what they want?  Of is it about what you want? And in answering that question there is always the secondary issue of whether we, the RV’ers, really want to know the answer.

Thanks for stopping by,  I enjoy our little meetings each morning and thank you for showing up.  🙂

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10 Comments

  1. The first half of your post had us aligned in thought once again. Just yesterday I was commenting to Rick about needing to alter my opinion
    in regards to the direction my own daughter was currently situated.

    In a similar fashion I looked at myself at her age and the ten years before it and I was fiercely independent, certain of my career goals and trying to make the best of juggling parenting as well.

    Though I am certain that my old person wisdom might have chosen to do things a bit differently, it was the experience I gleaned from the choices I made which led up to the old person wisdom in the first place!

    What can you say? I guess my best hope is that she chooses directions in life in which she can feel comfortable with her choices…and with herself. I think I can live with that. 😀

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    1. Mrs P,

      I think one of the hardest lessons for a parent is that their child’s life is theirs to live as they see fit. And their life will — of necessity— be different than the parent’s life. Making bad choices is part of life and we learn (or refuse to learn) how to make good ones by the bad ones we make. And we learn the unalterable fact that we aren’t owed anything by Mother Nature, from times when our expectations are simply out of sync with reality. Those can be horrendous lessons to learn, we don’t learn them at a static point in life — and some of us never learn them. There comes a point in life when we have to accept as parents that we have done the best we can for our kids and they either have learned what we have tried to teach them — or they have refused to learn — and people do that. People do occasionally choose to be obstinate, they do occasionally choose to think the world is out to get them. Those kinds of choices NO parent can do anything about.

      So many parents try to live their kids lives for them. And in doing so they not only cripple the child, they also engender resentment and ruin the relationship that they thought they had with their kids.

      There have been so many times recently when I have realized how much I offended my parents by choices I made. And yet they let me make them … and I think it ultimately came down to the point that they trusted that in the end I’d do the right thing. And I think based on MY set of values that I have. So their seeming leniency turned out to have been the right course. If I was someone else, would I say the same thing? I hope so.

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      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think the hardest struggle for me is seeing as she has grown into adulthood that she has very different philosophical beliefs than I. Growing up in a different time and space she is quite a bit more liberal than I where I tend to be conservative. My changes in heart have to do more with granting her the beingness to have the beliefs she has and not allowing these differences in our beliefs lessen my affinity for her.

        Who am I to say that what she believes in not the right path? I surely thought I was on the right path, not a doubt in my mind, until my own observation told me it was time to change paths.

        It is hard, and I see this from various older generations, to not be concerned as to the direction of the younger generation. As I say that, I know that many of our parents struggled with the same thoughts in regards to our generation. I was fortunate in that my parents always supported my beliefs and direction and never felt the chasm that others felt. I hope as a parent I can find a middle ground to not allow our differences to create a rift in our relationship.

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      2. Mrs P,

        I hear your struggle. The one thing to remember though is that society seems to do the pendulum thing and what we accepted as a good moral life seems to have been supplanted by some other view — just as our view supplanted in some regards our parents views. I have struggled with the fact that our daughter is more ‘liberal’ than we — by a long shot — but I also see in her other more redeeming qualities and I do remember that my own views have changed from time to time — in some regards I have changed more than the difference I see between her and me. (If I said that in an intelligible way)

        My mentor once put three questions to me: 1. Is everything you know the truth? (answer obvious) 2. Do you know which of the things you believe to be truth is/are not? 3. Well then, if you know that everything you know is not true, and you can’t tell which of those things that you believe to be true are false, how can you be critical of others who hold a differing viewpoint?

        Believe me, I did NOT want to hear that. And I struggled long and hard with the logic of those questions. I used to love judging — and I was loathe to give it up. But in the end….

        Isn’t it hard to acknowledge that our kids personality is NOT our personality? For me, many of my parenting trials arose because I expected Katy to be who I was — as ridiculous as I know that always sounded. How could she NOT see things the way I saw them. It was really hard for me to fathom. For a time. Eventually we got past that — which is to say, I got past it — she was never bothered by it. 🙂

        I think it’s harder to let go the further apart our views are from our kids. And I don’t think that most parents ever realize that kids grow up the way they do because they are true reflections of who we are — and like it or not we don’t get to choose which of our personality quirks they will like, which they will hate, and which they will choose to emulate. That emulating part was really hard for me. Because I came to recognize that part of what bothered me was that in some areas my daughter was becoming the things I could see in myself that I did not like. Talk about an awakening! Now we joke about genetics — her and I — but not always have we done so.

        As for the topic of ‘right paths’ — I think that the older I get, and adding in those aspects of U.S. history that I most cringe at, I have to accept that other societies have survived with equal or superior cultures for much longer than we have been a nation — and have done it with very different value systems. It was a huge and difficult boulder for me to push up the mountain — that life didn’t HAVE to be our way. Unfortunately our national leaders have never learned that lesson. Nor many of our religious heads. And let’s not even talk about the entertainment celebrities and the sports figures that have been idolized for no good reason. And yet they have more impact on our kids than we do. It’s not our words that they sing in the shower. It’s not our successes that most of them dream about in the playing field.

        I’m sure EVERY generation has felt similar feelings to ours. Some were right. Others not so much. What we grow up with we assume to be ‘normal’, ‘right’ , ‘the best way’ and only when we have seen other successful ways do we begin to realize that’s not true. I look at our daughter and she has chosen a far more stressful way of living than I did. She and Michael have for 25 years lived on a much finer financial edge that, frankly, scares the bejeezus out of me. I can’t understand why they don’t slow down and take things a little slower and not always face some of the deadlines they do — and then I realize that I took DIFFERENT risks — but I still took risks! It’s a different dialect they speak. Same language — just a different dialect. And nowadays when dialects are disappearing around the nation as travel and standardization are more prevalent it’s easy to forget that we weren’t always as homogenized. And maybe we are the prisoners in a prison of our own making, and we are the guards who keep us there. And just perhaps this coming generation will fashion their own prison, and live in it happily, and keep themselves within it’s walls just as have we.

        Then again, perhaps some of us break out from time to time. And do the unexpected — and that too is not approved. We have been fortunate in having mostly approval from our friends about going RV’ing — but I know full well some lose friends and have their families think they are verbrucht and just a little bit off in the head.

        I think that the fact that you struggle with these things is the biggest indicator that you’ll succeed. Those who never consider can never change. And change is good. Even when we don’t want it. 🙂

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      3. Thank you…I recently realized I have not changed as much as I thought I had, or maybe I changed and then changed back again without realizing. It was seeing this side of me, a side that felt I should feel a certain way on principal but in actuality did not honestly feel that way…and I didn’t like it because I couldn’t find a comfort zone in my integrity.

        As I have been discussing these thoughts with Rick I am slowly seeing things more clearly and feel that soon I will work out some resolve which I am happy with.

        On another note, I did once have an opportunity to have a heart to heart talk with my daughter, albeit in a group setting, in which she told me in one sentence the thing she greatly admired about me and the thing that drove her into the complete opposite direction. I was
        both flattered and humbled at once and fortunately had my head screwed on just right…kept my mouth shut and really listened… so that it was a win-win for us both. 😀

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      4. Mrs P,

        Self knowledge is a funny — make that a ‘tricky’ thing — it’s easy to see ourselves through our own rose-colored glasses, or through glasses of depression and self-loathing, etc.. To find some rational, reasonably accurate self-view is really not all that easy at all. And some people don’t even WANT to see themselves — as others see them, or in any way at all.

        The whole thing about ‘thinking we should feel a certain way on principal’ can be a real trap. The WHY we think we should feel that way is ever so deceptive — at least that’s what I have found in my own self. And I’m sure both of our much prior experiences play an integral part in that emotion. Judgment is a hard thing to give up. I used to feel ever so self-satisfied in judging others — there WAS a certain reward in that. Which I’m glad I eventually grew out of.

        Resolve and resolution are tough — because TO ME (just one person’s reaction) they indicate an attempt to become satisfied with something that in one’s heart one feels can never be satisfied/satisfying. Maybe I don’t use those words the same way you do; perhaps I’m applying a personal connotation. I feel resolve/resolution are a faux solution; a sort of self-deception, even a form of personal hypocrisy (and that word has a huge history in my life — I have fought with my self for decades about being one person and not behaving in ANY sort of hypocritical way — largely because I saw so much hypocrisy in my early life).

        What I want — for myself — is simple acceptance. And for me that has meant that I could not short-circuit learning to give up any kind of judgement. I am still rigorous about myself — my own values — but I have had to learn that each other person’s life really is their own and once they reach whatever age of maturity one accepts that their decisions from that point on really ARE their own. Actually they are their own from birth — but MY part in raising them ends at the point of legal maturity. I have done what I could; from here on it’s THEIR job to do what they could. Whether I’m a parent, a mentor, an uncle, or a boss.

        Then again, mothers don’t think like fathers. I accept that.

        Still and all, it’s an important distinction FOR ME. I found that for myself when I was working out a resolution that was really my way of saying ‘this is not acceptable but I have to live with it anyway because so-and-so wants it.’ And that’s not the place I wanted to be in. I really wanted to accept that there are different ways of being, different routes to civility, alternate views that work just as well to live one’s life — but you just won’t end up in the same place with the same thoughts. Yet — they produce a happifying and rewarding life even if it’s not the one I chose, or would have chosen for someone else.

        Not sure if you see where I’m coming from, and as I say, it may be a personal bugaboo and have nothing to do with your comment.

        Anyway…. Here’s to growth and change and all the angst and self doubt that go along with the process. 🙂

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      5. My resolve means it has to be right in my universe, not for anyone else. It has to be right with me and my integrity.

        Getting down to brass tacks, there have been times when I was immensely proud of things my daughter did during various points in her life.

        Due to ultra liberalism in California, she has learned to use the system to her advantage. At first I was fine with this because it involved her pursuing further education. That system has made it so easy and comfy to rely on it that it appears that she has chose it over productive work. Everything I believe in has to do with being a productive individual. I don’t care about wealth or what you do for a living but do whatever you choose well. In some aspects she has taken that literally. She is good at surviving on the governments dime. It kills me that she has chosen this path. I honestly don’t know if she’ll ever work for her own pay. I hope so, one day. In all other respects she is a great kid. I have no complaints but this one point of living off the government because she can has caused me to lose respect for her…and that hurts, from a parental point of view.

        I work hard to see the rightness in her and her choices, this one just hits a sore spot for me. I am all for getting assistance when you need it. In fact, I had assistance when I made my life changes. But it should be temporary…an aid, not a dependency.

        Thanks for listening.

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      6. > Gotcha this time.

        And I can see your conflict, for sure. But I think you hit your own nail on its head — there are things she’s learned on her own because of influences around her — that doesn’t speak to the job you did as a parent. But it speaks to her own choices, and sometimes choices can get a person along for a while and then they backfire. I’m a firm believer in Karma — avoidance of responsibility for her own lifestyle will catch up with her and be harder to deal with when it happens.

        Gotta be hard on you though…

        sending good juju your way, my friend.

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        Liked by 1 person

  2. The best parenting phrase I ever learned to say is, “I’m sure whatever you decide will be best for you.” It took me too long to learn it, though.

    When we visited my Dad and step-mom we parked our motorhome in their driveway and spent the night in it. We went inside at lunchtime and came back out after supper for three days. It was the perfect balance for us of together and alone time.

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    1. Linda,

      Yeah, there are a lot of things that take us parents a long time to learn. 🙂 I think a lot depends on the relationship between parent and child. With Kathryn we actually talk over a lot of choices with both parties giving plusses and minuses — for decisions she’s making and for decisions WE are making. It’s really kewl having an adult child. At least I think so.

      Sounds like you found a visitation schedule that worked well for you. You were alert to their needs and your own and found something that fit the situation.

      We have only visited one set of friends and parked in their drive. Now, with our 40 footer that same drive is too small. We have visited other friends and family and stayed at a nearby RV park rather than impose on them — which is something Peggy is super sensitive about; she never wants to be a bother. But by being at a nearby park we retain the ability to run errands, go see things our hosts might not care about, and still be near enough to spend time with them when they are available. No right way to do it — whatever works best for each of us.

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