A family legacy trip is any trip you take with your grandchildren that shares and builds a sense of family history with them. Ideally, it’s a skip-gen variety where it is just you and them!
Apart from the fun you will have, studies have shown that children with a strong sense of family are more resilient as adults. Parents obviously play an important role in developing a strong sense of family, but these same studies show that grandparents provide a deeper and broader connectedness to the family narrative.
Add to this the fact that grandparents often have more time and opportunity available than busy parents, and your role becomes apparent.
In December of 2019 (right before COVID hit!), my husband and I took our history-loving 10-year-old grandson to Bastogne, Belgium, for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. He was named for his great grandfather, who is no longer living, but we saw the tree planted in his memory by the local Belgians.
We heard about and met people my father-in-law actually knew as a tank gunner in World War II. It was a dramatic, once-in-a-lifetime kind of trip.
But family legacy trips don’t have to be like anything on that scale. Last summer, I took three of my grandchildren (ages 8 – 12) on a tour of my childhood in a small town in northeastern Ohio. We stopped at the two homes I lived in during the course of my childhood and drove by my schools and the church.
But most important, I took them to all my favorite haunts, including the waterfall in the center of town, the stone bridge and caves at the end of my road, and down to the Chagrin River to catch crayfish.
My mother has been gone for 25 years, but I taught them how to catch crayfish the same way she taught me: carefully lift a rock and place your cup right behind any you see – because they always shoot backwards!
At one point, I said to my grandchildren, “Do you know who you’re meeting today in this river?” Because of COVID, we had chosen a spot where no one else was around, so they looked around perplexed.
“My mother,” I told them. They smiled and I think they understood. By nightfall, my 12-year-old granddaughter had proclaimed my childhood “the childhood of her dreams.” Imagine how good that felt!
I have told them stories from my childhood but actually taking them to my hometown made the stories come alive. So much fun, and the total cost of the trip was under $300.
This past Father’s Day, our best friends took their 7-year-old grandson on a fishing trip because they have such fond memories of fishing with their dads.
They didn’t go to any of the same old “fishing holes” but as they completed the familiar tasks of baiting the hooks and casting, they shared stories that made their own fathers come more alive to this little grandson. They thought it a fitting way to spend Father’s Day – and I agree!
Patricia Washburn of Omaha has a different take on a family legacy trip. In 2017, her husband Marlyn, a former high school principal, died of breast cancer at the age of 66. Devastated, she decided to carry on his legacy of education.
She professionally wrapped his last car, a 2014 Dodge Dart, with his picture and information about how men can also develop breast cancer. She often takes one of her grandchildren with her on her educational road trips. Along the way, she shares stories about her husband – their grandfather – to keep his memory alive.
But what if you can’t travel or even get together with your grandchildren? Does it mean a family legacy trip is beyond your reach? By no means! All it takes is a little creativity – and maybe mutual access to the internet.
Explain to your grandchild that you are going to take a “trip down memory lane.” Bring out old family pictures. If they’re not already in albums, work on organizing and putting them in albums while sharing related family stories. If you’re far apart, share the photos and stories over the internet.
Have you done a DNA test? They’re easy to do and fairly inexpensive. Perhaps this is the time to introduce your grandchild to genealogy – and a little “armchair travel.” Trace your family roots and then explore the countries your ancestors may have come from. T
here is so much information on the internet, and you can personalize it with family anecdotes which you – and maybe only you – might know.
We grandparents have an important role in sharing and grounding our grandchildren in the family history. There are so many ways to do this – so why not start planning your family legacy trip today!
Have you ever taken a “family legacy trip” with your grandchildren? What were some highlights? If not, where would you like to go and what stories do you want to make sure to pass along?