I promise I won’t turn this space into a daddy blog, although I could certainly fill the pages of one with my ramblings.
But something took place a couple weeks ago that changed me permanently. I’m confident it changed her too, but regardless, I’m better because of the four days we spent together in the Smoky Mountains.
A couple years ago, Brooke and I read “Love Does” by Bob Goff. His story-telling is captivating and his love is contagious. One concept we resonated with was taking your child on a 10 year old trip of their choice when they hit that milestone.
We shared the idea with our kids, and of course they loved it. A long weekend with just mom and dad? Most days, they don’t even get a minute of our undivided attention let alone several days.
Kamden, a very typical firstborn, began planning right away. Our guidelines were simple: Anywhere in the 48 states. 3 nights. 4 days. Her choice completely, but she had to do research and present her case to us.
She built a Top 10 list that I can’t remember fully but included: Washington DC, Yellowstone, the Niagara Falls, Chicago, San Francisco, the Smoky Mountains. She looked at Google images, wrote summaries, watched YouTube videos, even asked friends and family for advice.
She cut the list to Yellowstone, the Niagara Falls and the Smoky Mountains. She had heard of my summers at Windy Gap in the mountains of North Carolina. She knew Brooke and I walked on the trails of the Biltmore estate. And being the thoughtful firstborn, she knew a closer trip to where we lived (Florida when she made the decision) meant less money shelled out by mom and dad.
The Smoky Mountains. She found pictures of ziplines, log cabins, horseback riding, sunsets. Her decision was firm.
Then she started planning and researching, her anticipation growing by the minute it seemed. We started telling family members. We booked the flights. We were blown away with an offer to stay at a mountain resort for FREE. Things were shaping up nicely.
When you have a family of seven, things are always shifting. Someone is sick, someone is dealing with a tough friendship, a transition is harder on one of them, the list goes on. Although it broke her heart, the week we were scheduled to leave, Brooke had to stay home with the other four. But she knew that father / daughter time would be special nonetheless. And Kamden, being smart, negotiated an overnight at a spa with mom as a makeup option in a few months.
So Kamden and I were off. We had a 6am flight on a Friday morning, nonstop to Nashville. Then a three hour drive to the Smokies. With a stop at Bojangle’s for some health food along the way.
I won’t recount every detail of the trip here, but I will say that something unforgettable happened in those mountains. A bond was reinforced. Dreams were dreamed. Beauty was discovered. A Hope was restored.
We laughed, stayed up late, ate junk food, slept in, jumped in hot tubs, saw four bears in the wild, cried, ziplined through the trees, rode horses, hiked trails, shopped, took naps in our car, walked through old log cabins, learned about moonshine, watched Disney Channel (the non-cartoon shows that we typically tell her no because we want to keep her little), slept in a king bed together, dreamed of owning a cabin one day, rode go-karts, played miniature golf, bouldered, climbed through streams, picked up salamanders, jammed to teenage music, took pictures at the highest point in Tennessee, tried to pick up southern accents, rode alpine roller coasters, and Kamden even found a way to display her love by leaving a sweet note and expensive chocolate for her favorite hotel worker.
But most of all, we were together. Uninterrupted. With only the agenda that we created together.
With tears in my eyes, I cherish every second of that trip. Days I’ll never get back but days that will live forever in our memories. Something magical happened in those mountains.
The first decade of fathering Kamden was a precious, precious gift. She’s changing the world already, and it’s unspeakable how much joy she brings us.
Adalee, you’re on the clock for your 10 year old trip in two years. We can’t wait to join you on that adventure.