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Trading Homes: When Parents and Kids Need a Break From Each Other

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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One day my 13-year-old daughter was my best friend, and the next day, she wasn’t. I went from being her best friend to being, well, meh. Even though my mom and I went through this, it took me by surprise. I needed help—family help. So at spring break, I sent my daughter to Wyoming to spend a week with my cousin. It’s a family tradition.

When I was 12 years old, I flew to Wyoming during spring break to visit my aunt and uncle. When my aunt’s daughter—my cousin Kendra—turned 12, she came to Texas to stay with my parents. She and my mom stayed close. When Kendra met the man of her dreams, she wanted my mom’s approval, which she heartily received.

Kendra lives in one of the prettiest spots on earth—Jackson Hole. She and my daughter are sixteen years apart, making Kendra old enough to be a responsible adult, yet young enough to still be cool.

After I put my daughter on the plane, details from my trip to Wyoming came back—details I thought I’d forgotten. I sent an email to my aunt:

I remember you introducing me to Amy Grant’s "Age to Age" album. I remember making chocolate chips cookies and using mint extract because I couldn’t find any vanilla. You were very nice about how weird they tasted. I remember learning how to cross-country ski at Vedauwoo. I remember driving across Wyoming to hear you give a presentation on photographer Charlie Belden up in Cody at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. And most of all, I remember you being very sympathetic with all my adolescent struggles with my mom, yet never taking my side. You always were respectful of her and tried to give me her perspective, which was something I lacked at that age. I appreciated it then, but as I sent off my daughter yesterday to stay with your daughter, I appreciate it even more.

My aunt wrote back:

It was your mother’s idea to trade homes for a week with our kids, and it was such a great one. As Kendra was planning for your daughter to come and trying to think of all the best things to do, I reminded her that it wasn’t really the things that we did that made the visit so memorable, but the one-on-one time that never seems to happen when the whole family is together. It’s those talks that dig deep and those times that make you laugh. It’s that independence, that coming-of-age time when parents just can’t seem to do anything but suck, in the kid’s mind.

After her week in Jackson Hole, my daughter didn’t become my best friend again, but she did learn to downhill ski; she accompanied Kendra, a wedding planner, on a client meeting; and she taught Kendra how to bake.

More importantly, a month later, when my daughter needed someone to talk to, guess who she texted?

Yes, my daughter and cousin have continued to stay in touch. How do I know? My aunt told me.

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