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Expectations and the Road Trip of Life

So this last weekend found me far from home at my brother-in-law’s house in Minnesota. He had picked up Number 3 from college for the long weekend and the family all headed to the Minnesota State Fair. It has become a new yearly tradition that all the kids have enjoyed over the years. Typically my schedule doesn’t allow for it as I have my own yearly tradition that takes me to Illinois during that Saturday.

Friday I drive from Nebraska to Illinois. Then on Sunday, I drive from Illinois to Minnesota. On Monday I drove Number 3 back to school. He had a great time at the fair, like always, trying an endless amount of fried foods. I arrived in time to participate in one of my fantasy football league’s drafts which he and I both belong to. Afterwards we had a great meal out of my brother-in-law’s smoker, played cards with the family, and slept well after a long day of driving and activity.

I was actually looking forward to driving again on Monday because that meant I got to spend time with just Number 3 as I drove him back to school. I had thoughts in my head of how things would go, but I forget to communicate my thoughts to my son and I set him up for failure. We started with a stop for snacks and a drink before getting on the road. Once underway the trip immediately felt like the last thing I wanted to do.

I began asking good probing questions about his new life and college experience. “So tell me what it is like to be on your own without having mom and dad looking over your shoulder?” The response, “Its fine.” “Tell me about someone you have met in one of your classes.” The response, “Haven’t met anyone.” I could go on with about 5 more good questions meant to illicit good conversations but each time the answers were short with no details I was craving for. Then out cam the headphones and he said he was going to take a nap.

For the next 2 hours I found a good sports channel on my XM radio and was forced to listen to that rather than listen to my son and all his new experiences in college. I was definitely feeling unfulfilled and I blamed him for checking out. When we got back to school and I was forced to pick where we would eat because he just wanted fast food, I told him how I was feeling and as a dad it wasn’t my proudest moment. I told him I was disappointed that he decided not to talk to me the whole trip. I told him that is why I wanted to do this trip; to be able to spend quality time with him and that next year I might not make the trip if this was going to be the outcome. Wow what an ass! Growing up the guilt trip was a big part of my childhood used to make me feel bad about decisions I had made and I just brought it into my relationship with my kid.

It wasn’t until I talked with my wife that I realized what I had done. I am almost 50 years old and I am still very clueless at times. This was all my fault as I had not communicated my wants or desires for our time together. I should have talked to him on Sunday and said that I am excited to spend the day with you on Monday and I hope we can talk all about your new life. That is probably all that would have been needed to change the experience for both of us during car ride. After reflecting on how I acted, I told him how sorry I was for not communicating my expectations to him and it’s not ok for anyone to make him feel guilty and especially not his dad. I guess there are still always lessons to be learned when living the ZagZig life.

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