We’re staying at a lovely state park in Louisiana.
Two heavily-treed, tight little RV loops with a central dump at the back and free laundry near the middle. Yeah OK only one washer works, the campground showers (which I never use anyway) are cold and on those stupid push-timers, and the sites are tighter than I typically prefer, but the place has a real homey feel to it.
This is our third and last night here, we’re leaving early tomorrow morning. It’ll be a typical road Sunday: we’ll do church in the nearest town, then a shopping run, then head onto the next stop. Honestly, though, I’d happily stay here another several days – I really like the vibes in this place.
Last night I heard Keaton sniffling up in her bed. I asked if she was OK and she said yes that she just had a stuffy nose. About 15min later I found out she was lying when she said, slowly and tearfully, “Dad? … I really miss home right now,” and quit trying to hide the fact that she was crying.
Now, we’ve established that my daughter’s emotional reactions to/during this trip, both positive and negative, have a high impact on me.
I hear the homesickness and heartache in her voice and my own throat immediately tightens; I taste salt at the top and back of my mouth. I take a deep breath and do not respond right away. I carefully consider what I’m going to say. When I’m ready, I answer:
“I’m sorry babe. I miss home sometimes too. Do you want to come back here and we can be sad about it together a little?”
I don’t know if this will be effective, but it’s honest. There are things I miss about home, though I’m sure not as many as she. Maybe it’d be good for us to be open to that, commiserate, work through it by sharing a cry.
She doesn’t want to come back, though. She’s still sobbing and sniffling, the emotion sounding very pure the way real crying does; honest and raw. The sound continues to hurt my heart.
I take a few moments to think again. I say, “OK. Well, what do you miss most about home?”
I know this is maybe dumb, and may get her even more upset, but I’ve decided I’ve chosen “acknowledgement” as my theme here and I’m just going to run with it – let’s just be real here and discuss these feelings.
It works, she opens up. She misses her room the most. How cozy and “hers” it is. I’m glad for this, as it’s actually fairly relatable to me and easier to talk to than the “all my friends” answer I’ve heard before. I share that I sometimes miss our big bathroom, with the large shower that has infinite water and our own toilet.
She decides she wants to come back after all. She climbs into bed between Sharaun and I, she’s in her long fuzzy Christmas PJ pants and carrying her stuffed animal, a floppy shaggy dog named Waffles.
She’s just a kid, she’s homesick. I snuggle with her, thank God for her silently and remind myself that her feelings are completely reasonable.
At some point she tells me, “I know how much you love this trip and I feel bad that I miss home.” “No,” I say, and continue with something like, “You don’t need to feel bad, it’s fine to miss home. That doesn’t upset me at all. I just hope that we have enough good times together on the trip to offset the sad.”
We talk a little more and she stops crying. Eventually she realizes this bed ain’t made for three fully grown humans and goes back to her own.
I’m thankful for the way the whole interaction went, glad that I took time to just listen and permit what she was feeling, not try to reason with her or convince her out of her sadness.
Today she was fine, in a grand mood, actually. We had fun, laughed, enjoyed the homey little Louisiana state park as a family.
Sharaun did several loads of free laundry, I drove the RV over to dump the tanks, we took a walk along the river and watched the SEC championship and grilled hot dogs. I met a nice guy named Alan who shared a cigarette with me and reminded me why I don’t smoke.
Was a good day.