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Lisa Miller

April 9, 2011

Parenting adventure takes a turn

Adventure \ d-v n-ch r\ n 1: an undertaking, usually involving danger and unknown risks 2: an exciting or remarkable experience.

On Friday, my 13-year-old daughter, Abby, will embark on the biggest adventure of her life thus far.

Over the course of six days, she and about 65 Oneonta Middle School classmates and teachers will visit three states in a whirlwind tour of sights and wonders, including the Grand Canyon. They'll hike The Narrows in Zion National Park, float down the Colorado River, bike through the Red Rocks of Sedona and tour the Hoover Dam _ in between riding roller coasters and water slides.

It will be the culmination of weeks of planning, months of saving _ and almost 14 years of letting go, one step at a time.

Two years ago, I wrote about sending Abby off on a Mother's Day weekend trip to Washington, D.C., with the school safety patrol. This trip is twice as long, involves traveling by plane to a different climate and time zone, and has an itinerary that includes rafting, hiking and rock climbing.

As a parent, it's a leap of faith, despite promises from the teacher-chaperones to watch the kids apply sunscreen, remind them to fill their water bottles, and confiscate their phones if they can't stop texting while crossing the street.

At a mandatory meeting a month before the trip, parents and their student-travelers filled the school cafeteria to get questions answered and receive the all-important room assignments. We also got a detailed what-not-to-do lecture.

We heard about the kid who had to wear pink clothes on the first day of the trip because the bottle of Gatorade he'd packed in his checked luggage had exploded on the flight out.

There were cautionary tales of students who got so dehydrated or sunburned that they had to miss out on some of the most exciting activities, or who had to leave souvenirs ranging from tomahawks (yes, tomahawks) to snow globes at the airport gate.

There were many stories about kids losing iPods, phones and money _ from the boy who lost his wallet before even boarding the plane on Day One, to the girls who stuffed bills in the pockets of their shorts, only to watch them fly away in the wind while running to see a beautiful view.

I took notes, because that's what I do.

Abby rolled her eyes.

I left the meeting feeling both alarmed at having never even foreseen some of these potential mishaps and oddly comforted by the fact that, at least, my daughter will be under the care of experienced travelers who will be prepared for the worst.

There is a lot more to packing than putting things into a suitcase. It's about planning, preparation and a bit of superstition. (If I bring every possible thing I might need, then nothing will go wrong.)

I love to travel, but I'm not great at it. Everyone in my family is used to my driving-out-of-town litany: "Do you have your wallet? Did you remember your glasses? Where's the camera?"

Abby does not share my neuroses.

While I'm a deliberate packer who makes lists and checks things off right up until the last second, she prides herself on being able to get ready for a weekend trip in 15 minutes or less. I typically spend the first hour of every road trip obsessing over the things I might have forgotten, but Abby is so laid-back that, eight days before her trip, she still hadn't reviewed the suggested packing list.

I, however, have looked at it plenty, including the notes I added during the meeting. Sneakers, check. Camera, check. Watch, check.

Dramamine? How do I know if she will need Dramamine? She's only flown once, when she was 4, and our biggest concern then was keeping the Go Fish cards from sliding off the pull-down trays on the plane.

There are many things not on the list that I'd like to squeeze in, but can't: common sense, smart decision-making, love and care from home.

In the end, it's an exercise in trust and faith. I can't inspect the Southwest planes for cracks, order good weather or ensure that my daughter will have the exciting and remarkable experience she's worked for and looked forward to since last spring.

But checking items off a list and finding the most efficient way to fit all her favorite jeans into a suitcase?

That, I can do.

Lisa Miller is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Oneonta. She can be reached at

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