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Parent to Parent


What I learned on my summer vacation

By Betsy Flagler
John Rosemond
Betsy Flagler, who lives in Davidson, writes the nationally syndicated Parent to Parent column.

During a recent getaway, I learned a few things:

• I learned that I am more like my dad than I realized. I love ice cream as much as he did, but I wince at the price of even a small cone and know he would not pay it. Later, after hesitating over the endless options at an ATM, I hear myself echoing Dad’s battle cry: “Too many choices!“

• I learned that children who get to play in calm waters tend to cope better with life’s rough seas. As I watched dads, moms and grandparents fish with their children, they shared experiences to cherish. One father along the marsh off Oak Island told me that “faith, family and fishing” are his core values, and that too much political correctness is complicating everything. Upstream, a little fellow in a life jacket leaned against his daddy’s legs. ”We’ve got a fish!” the 3-year-old announced. It was actually their bait fish, but Dad let his boy dream. No correcting.

• I learned, or rather was reminded, that nature wins every time. Some kids learn about nature’s dominance the hard way, some even losing their lives to the ocean. Although the tides ebb and flow by the moon’s clockwork, it’s often a surprise when water reclaims an inlet and takes away what used to be a sandy beach. Or when a rapid tide in a rainstorm hauls away a motorboat that was insufficiently tied up, as happened to my dad once.

• I learned how happy it can make our kids when we indulge them. The one child I saw who got to stomp in a rain puddle was such a happy little fellow that I gave his mom my own “Mother of the Week” award. As she watched him without helicoptering, we chatted about the mismatched firefighter boots and shorts he had picked out for the day.

On my vacation, I was reminded repeatedly that we parents tend to push our kids and stay too long at amusement parks and attractions. We sign them up for camps all summer, buckling them in and out of sticky car seats, when what they’d really love to do is stomp in puddles, fish in calm waters, build forts in the backyard and hide toy dinosaurs in sand piles.

On bright, sunny days, when unpleasant whininess sets in and everyone is snapping at each other, your kids are telling you they are ready to go home. That they have had enough.

It’s natural. And nature always wins.

Betsy Flagler is a mother and preschool teacher. Email her at

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