As this summer continues, we caught up with Wise Young Dad on the Street Ross Klabon for some great insights and ideas on how the Klabon family is enjoying new adventures.
Last week, my sons were ecstatic in the days before my birthday. Cake on a Monday? Yes! I videotaped them taking turns sitting on my lap to read me their handwritten birthday card and proudly show off their penmanship because that’s the tradition.
We value tradition, and each tradition is passed down to the next generation, even the strange ones.
I grabbed some matches from the cupboard as one son planted the “3” on my cake while my other son planted the “0.” My “3”-planter took one look and asked, “Dad, are those the matches we bought two years ago at the little gas station while camping on the Frio River?” He was asking a question, but he already knew. And that was the best birthday present.
My boy didn’t remember his dad searching for a 4G signal to locate the nearest place selling overpriced matches. He was on an adventure with his dad and brother, three shirtless dudes going to buy some fire. We had no fire, and, he knows, ALL dudes need fire.
We're an adventurous clan, and our travels together create lifelong memories.
Before winding down, I had to address something big: the twins on a sugar high. Wrestling ensued, and only the real heroes can appreciate the skill involved here. Applying the optimal amount of force on a scale from, “Boring!” to “911, what’s your emergency?” is only part of it. Stepping in front of the occasional jab or flying knee strike to keep the brothers on good terms is also in the job description.
Tickling is my finisher, and, as their energy tapered off, I grabbed Stratego from the game closet. We watched Up before bed.
Quality time is never absent in our family. Family isn’t just first. It's also forever.
What’s your favorite family activity?
It’s family board game night, which is practically every night that we are in town and there is no soccer, flag football, or baseball game or practice. Why? Because all of us are loud and like to win. At what age these two will stop keeping score I do not know. At this very moment, there are nine 8.5” x 11” scoreboards hanging in the kitchen, each with a different board game written across the top in crayon.
The tallies (or lack thereof) under each of our names is a constant reminder of who the real dice sharp and card player in the family is. To my credit, I have instilled sportsmanship along the way. Sportsmanship is important. It means that when you lose, you don’t stammer around the house for ten minutes and accuse dad of not shuffling the UNO cards well enough. Very happy that ship has sailed.
What’s been your best family vacation?
This vacation did not win an award for the most smiles flashed or laughs to be had. There were no dolphins to feed, no water slides to splash down, nor giant Disney characters to join for photos. In fact, I don’t even think there was ice cream. (Can I even classify this as a vacation without it?)
It was midday and we were standing on Lighthouse Rock, but it might as well have been the top of the world. The view was breathtaking and the journey to get there was not an easy one. We danced on the well-known rock formation and tossed stones off the edge to count the seconds it took to hear them hit the canyon bottom. We were three miles away from shelter with no sign of life as far as the eye could see. When we yelled, the only response was our own voices echoing back. The expression we held on our faces said it all.
Fast-forward two hours and I had lost both their votes for best family vacation ever.
We were carrying our bikes because the mud-packed forks wouldn’t let the wheels budge even a bit. It’d been pouring rain for over an hour and the added weight from our drenched clothes made it harder and colder to lug our bikes along. Our feet sank so deep into the mud with every step we took that my sons contend to this day that the trails of Palo Duro Canyon are nothing but quicksand.
At our current pace, we had three hours to go and we were already losing daylight. With every crack of thunder more startling than the one before, it was hard to tell if the tears had ever stopped rolling down their cheeks. …We were three miles away from shelter with no sign of life as far as the eye could see. When we yelled, the only response was our own voices echoing back. The expression we held on our faces said it all.
After I knelt for my “dad pep talk,” I had my “proud dad moment.” My sons exchanged words of encouragement to push on whenever the other had a moment of weakness. Their frightened expressions had turned to relentless determination. I knew that they had declared war against the elements, and Klabons never lose. I witnessed my sons maturing right before my eyes, and those are moments to be cherished.
That is an abridged version of why that was the best vacation ever. I was relieved too; the alternative was to ditch the bikes and carry my boys back to civilization. Yikes, they’re 50 pounds each! In hindsight, they definitely deserved ice cream on the way home.
What’s your favorite part of summer?
Ah, it’s summertime and school is out! While my sons strutted through the front door with their end-of-school tokens - broken crayons and dried out markers - I cashed in vacation time quicker than a jackpot-winner at Chuck E. Cheese.
But we’re not exchanging tickets for Tootsie Pops or whoopee cushions (note to self: not a bad idea to buy one). The prize is time. Loosely-scheduled days, late nights, and long weekends make for memorable family moments. Sure, I've enrolled my sons in a couple of camps and vacation Bible schools, but it’s just enough to keep them civilized, nothing more.
Let’s build it. Let’s travel there. And let’s experience it. Whether we’re camping in the backwoods or pushing lumber through a table saw, our effort brings us closer together. Whatever our destination, guiding their journey from boyhood to manhood is everything.
Do you have any travel tips or advice for families during the summer?
I always bring a few new things each year, but I try to keep it essential. If I just filled our travel packs to the brim with stuffed Ziploc bags and backup copies of a minute-by-minute itinerary, we might as well leave our souls at home.
Truthfully, I take a little joy in the absence of things. “Uh-oh, no ketchup for our hot dogs? Should we just skip dinner tonight?” “The water isn’t even cold? Do you think you’ll, like, survive?”
In the end, I only follow a few precepts. Water, snacks, and sunscreen are critical. Kids need their sleep, so I abide by my sons’ sleep schedule. They don’t know how to sleep in and they rarely nap, so I’d rather not pay the price tomorrow. “Go to the bathroom,” is always a command, never a question.
Whether we travel in the air or by highway, I always have an arsenal of games and toys that are engaging, growth-oriented, and don’t have a million pieces scattered everywhere after “light turbulence” or “that pothole came out of nowhere!” Always embrace the challenges and the unexpected. They are just as memorable as the destination.
To learn more about the Klabon family, be sure to follow Ross on Instagram. And be sure to share all your favorite family memories and adventures on FamilyApp!