My trick for slowing down childhood

JEALOUS. As in we’re jealous. contributor Mary Graham {author of Confession: Peanut butter and jelly is my very best and Celebrating the every day} is planning a summer-long road trip with her family, and clueing us in on her plans this month in her latest post. Read up then dream about your own epic road adventure, while we excuse ourselves to Google “how to stow away in a suitcase.”

You could argue I’m a mean parent.

I don’t let our kids watch TV during the school week. They probably only spend about an hour a week on electronics. They eat fruits and veggies at every meal whether they want to or not. The only beverage choices they have are milk or water. If they’re bored, we tell them to go read a book, create something out of paper and tape, or go outside. Their childhood is surprisingly simple and low-key.

And that is exactly the way we want it to be.

Soon enough there will be laptops for school and cell phones for friends. There will be less free time and more responsibilities. But for now, my husband and I go out of our way to make things as simple as possible for our two daughters. I’ve been around middle schoolers and high schoolers for the past ten years as a teacher, and I know they grow up too fast. I know that our world encourages it; our society thinks it’s cute to be a kid, but even cuter to be a tiny adult.

Trick for slowing childhood _ Indy's Child Magazine
Mary gives her Instagram followers the first glance at Betsy Ross.

So we’re fighting back the best way we know how.

Unplugged. Outside. Together.

From that parenting perspective, a family goal emerged: visit all 50 states with our children before they leave us. What better way to be away from screens, get outside, and be together as a family than by traveling? What better gift to give our children than to show them our world instead of just telling them about it? Mark Twain wrote “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquire by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Well said, Mark Twain. I think you might have what it takes to be a successful writer. Keep it up.

So a few months ago we bought a camper and started prepping it for road trips. Our children are five and seven and have finally reached the age where we can travel longer distances. We voiced our ambitious goal a few years ago and began working on it immediately with shorter trips until we got more confident traveling with children. As of right now, we’ve got eight states and Washington, DC checked off our list. The rule is we have to spend at least one night in the state before we can call it conquered. No drive-throughs allowed.

We realize our goal is a little crazy. It’s also not like we’re made of money with our teacher and exterminator pay checks. We go without a lot of things to make traveling with our family a priority. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Trick for slowing childhood _ Indy's Child Magazine
We spy: Betsy Ross prepping for her summer trip. {And a spare pillow – maybe for us to join the Graham family during their trek?}

This summer we take off on our first epic road trip. Our camper, which I have affectionately named Betsy Ross because she’s going to take us to all the states represented on the Stars and Stripes (well, most of them, obviously; she’s not seaworthy), will help us adventure through six more states as we head west in July. We’ll visit Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park, meet buffalo, and purposely slow down. Seventeen days of hiking, swimming, playing, reading, s’mores, and very little wifi.

Even at this age, I can feel their childhood slipping away. We only have eleven years left until my oldest graduates from high school. The first seven years went too fast so I have no doubt the next eleven will fly by just as fast. So we’re racing against the clock. Truthfully, we’re also trying to trick the clock, as well. Because when you’re camping, time stands still. A day lasts longer because you’ve got no where to go and all the time in the world to get there. So while it sounds fun and adventurous that we’re taking off on road trips with our little camper, some of it is us selfishly wanting to outrun our children’s adulthood.

And while we know we can’t do that, we believe Betsy Ross and our fifty-states checklist can help us fend it off a little longer.

Mary Graham, Trusty Chucks - Indy's ChildMary Graham is a lifelong resident of Indianapolis, Indiana. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and rescue dog, Blue. During the day, she teaches high school English and at night (after the girls are asleep), she writes for The Huffington Post, Pearson’s Teachability, For Every Mom, her own blog,, and various other print and digital outlets. Mary’s work has also appeared on In her spare time, she likes to read, travel, eat chocolate, run half marathons, and then eat more chocolate.
Find Mary on Twitter and Instagram.

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