My youngest son’s birthday was on Tuesday. He turned 16! I’m still not sure how it happened that my youngest child is 16 years old, but here we are. He’s so delightful, funny, curious, and adventurous. For his birthday this year, we’re in Mexico. That’s a first that we’ve been outside of the United States on his birthday, so we don’t really have a “usual” thing we do here. We decided as a family to head down to the beach for a few days.
When we lived in Florida, heading to the beach meant a short walk or a car ride, depending on where we were going. Either way, it wasn’t more than 10 minutes to go to the beach. But we’re living in the mountains right now and going to the beach means that we either need to fly or take a tourist van on a 7-hour drive over the mountain range or a big bus overnight for 10 hours. Mind you, it’s only about 100 miles to the beach, but the mountain range in between is no joke.
So out of the gate, we’re having experiences as we ride with the locals, as this is how they get to the beach, and we haven’t even gotten to the beach yet.
This is what I want for my son. I want him to have experiences, to be in the world, to get to know the way others live and love and to see the warmth in the world where there is so much fear and division. Rather than taking the news we hear about other people generalized and lumped together, how about we go talk to them and decide if the story that we’re being told is true?
And so we did. We went on a 7.5-hour tourist van ride over the mountain range and came to a beautiful spot near the Pacific Ocean to a sleepy ocean town called Huatulco. (pronounced Wa- tool- co)
The highlight of our trip together was going to a sea turtle rescue with our guide, Jose. We traveled in Jose’s van for about 90-minutes to get to the refuge, get signed in with our bracelets and pay for the experience. Then we drove across the highway and down the road to the beach with the turtle nursery. There were several other groups in the area, all with their own guides, explaining how the process works, from the people scouting the beach watching for the turtles to come on shore and lay their eggs, to the relocation of the eggs to the protected area until they hatch, to the turtles being released into the ocean within hours of hatching.
I wanted my son to have this experience. I wanted him to learn from our guide, to ask questions, and to see the good that is happening in this part of the world to protect our oceans and sea creatures who call it home. His first question was about whether he could name his turtles as he released them and he was excited to hear a yes back. He named one Alowishus. It seemed like he’d been waiting to use that name.
He encouraged the turtles when he set them on the beach and followed the progress of each one until it made it safely into the ocean. At the end of our experience, our guide turned to us in Spanish and said, “Now you are part of the group of people who are helping to protect the turtles.” It was a beautiful moment for all of us.
I’m a big believer in experiences. This is something that none of us will ever forget. We took some pictures and our guide took some, too, but other than that, we don’t have anything physical to show for the experience. But it will live with us forever.
At this time during the holidays, when we are so driven to be consumers and to buy things, I’d encourage you to look at how you can enrich your children’s lives, no matter how old they are, by creating experiences. It doesn’t have to be as extravagant as a tourist van ride over a mountain range or a sea turtle rescue. It could be a trip to a local site. Just begin asking the question about what is possible for an experience? Even buying a butterfly garden and watching the caterpillars make their cocoons and hatch into butterflies is an experience your kids will never forget.
Do you have any great ideas for experiences that you’d like to share? Comment below and share. Let’s support one another in thinking this way and finding ways to provide experiences instead of more things this holiday season.
Speaking of Experiences
I’m creating a series of experiences next year for YOU. These experiences will range from online 3-hour workshops, weekend-long online workshops, and some in-person family-friendly retreats. If you’d like to be notified of these experiences and have the first chance to register, please sign up below. Space will be limited to create a safe container for exploration. We want to make sure that we have people participating in these experiences who are ready to support one another.