To the cacti

Tomorrow we'll get on a plane - well, two planes - and make our way across the country to Arizona, where CG was born and raised.

When we moved here to Virginia two and a half years ago, we decided the only way our California-wimpy selves could survive winter would be to head to his parents' place in Arizona - or some other warm place - every February, when the snow had just started to outstay its welcome.

(Now, of course, we are afraid we might actually miss the only real snow of the whole winter.)

Last year we went to Jamaica for a week in February, courtesy of my parents. This year we will spend a week with my mother-in-law in Tucson, going to the rodeo, the playground, the desert museum, all the while reaching our faces to the sun like a couple of lizards.

It feels important to us both to take the girls there, not during a busy holiday but during a time when you can focus on the landscape, a time when you can spend days just puttering around the yard looking at the cacti. If nothing else, CG hopes the girls will know that a saguaro isn't just a picture on the wall.

I thought we'd do this every year, assuming we could afford it. But planning this trip has brought a sad realization: this may be our last year of February trips. Next year, when Z is in public school for first grade, there will be a lot of pressure to keep her in school, with no absences for family vacations. I don't know why this surprises me but it does. Didn't I take trips during the school year that weren't an official school break? Aren't trips to see family, not around a school break but when we really, actually, want to travel, an important part of childhood?

As it is, Z's kindergarten will roll along without her; they're taking their first field-trip, to see a play, while we are gone and she is heartbroken about missing it. Yesterday she loudly lamented her unfinished art project that will languish and "be lonely" next week when the other kids finish theirs. She worries that she'll miss the rest of the lesson on the heart, "a very important organ, Mommy," she informed me indignantly.

Yes, she is excited to go to Arizona, but she is also suddenly aware of life going on here without her and she doesn't like it.

I have a sense that this trip is an end of an era, the era when our family made vacation choices based almost solely on what worked best for the grownups.

Though I am excited for Z to start public school next year, I feel like we are in a raft the top of a churning rapid. The school system will have its way with us and we will do our best to navigate the waters, keeping our little raft, our little family, intact along the way.

School means we most likely will not be taking week-long trips in February any more. 

Here's hoping this one is a last great hurrah.


Sarah said...

Have a wonderful time! I haven't been to Arizona since I was little, but I remember loving it, how different the climate felt and the landscape looked.

kate said...

I know the public schools here (NY) are actually closed next week for the mid-winter break. Maybe you will have a similar break you can plan around?

clueless but hopeful mama said...

kate- Unfortunately not. Growing my up, we had a week off in February in my public school in NJ (we called it "ski week" even though I personally never skied!) I guess we live south enough for people not to need a week off to survive winter!

Kathimc said...

I grew up with "ski week" too but Oakland public schools don't have it. I was shocked. Of course this year we would be more likely to spend it at the pool... Happy travels!

Alice said...

give it a couple more years, and then the girls will be more than happy to start skipping school for vacations :)

Jill said...
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Bronwen said...

This mirrors something I've noticed lately in our life here. For the first several months of her life, whenever I decided that E was done swinging in her swing or playing with that toy, I'd pick her up and take her away with no fuss. All the minute-to-minute decisions about what she was doing were mine to make, with no protest from her. More recently, she often gets upset if I try to pick her up when she's in the middle of something very important like ripping apart a magazine. While it's more frustrating to me, it's exciting to see her develop her own will. She's no longer just a passenger, she's determining her course. I think it's so cool that Zoe is invested in school to the point where she doesn't want to miss anything. She has a life of her own and the things she's doing (which sound more productive than magazine-ripping) matter to her. And the heart really is a very important organ.

Gina said...

I've been thinking about this quite a lot lately as Thomas starts kindergarten. Overall, I don't think I will feel any guilt, from the perspective of what the school thinks, over taking the kids out of school as I feel is important. But I do care of what the kids themselves want. I honestly hadn't thought of that issue.

One of the reasons we choose the school that we did (not public, they receive the same amount of money regardless of whether our child is there)

Gina said...

...rest of my comment was eaten!

I was saying that one of the reasons that we choose the school we did was that they are very supportive of learning opportunities outside the classroom. It is quite normal at our new school for a student or two to be absent on vacation, visiting relatives, etc.

Have fun in Arizona!

Erin said...

Hope you are having a wonderful week. Sounds perfect.

I'd just ditch school for a few days over Presidents Day weekend. We used to do that as kids sometimes and were never worse for wear. I KNOW it's STRONGLY DISCOURAGED. But still. I think kids will learn a lot more from life experiences than the classroom, so why not?

(And I know there's a good answer to why not, but I choose to largely ignore it.)

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