Family Fun Adventures, by Dulce Zamora
By next Fall, my oldest daughter Sienna will be applying to college. It’s so cliché to ask, “Where did the time go?” Yet, I can’t help but ponder the question. It may seem premature to reflect on years past, but, as a family, we’ve long started preparing for the day she leaves the house. It’s not because we want to get rid of her. Far from it. We will always be here to guide her as she flexes her wings. At the same time, we have practiced letting go. We have treated change as a process – one that includes lots of hands-on, boots-on-the-ground practice and constant review of where we have been and where we are going.
The last few years included some global training. Sienna was born in Singapore, near the autumnal equinox. Two years later, her sister Jasmine was also born in the Little Red Dot during the same season.
The successive autumns since then have shaped us as individuals and as a family. During a 2012 Fall Break trip to Seoul, South Korea, Jasmine and Sienna (who were 3 and 5 years old) enjoyed stomping on crunchy, colorful Fall leaves surrounding traditional Buddhist temples. The girls were as energetic as ever despite being unable to eat most of the delicious gluten-and-soy-filled Korean dishes because of food intolerances at the time.
The following year, in 2013, extremely hazardous haze marred the tail end of an otherwise epic October trip to Beijing, China. Luckily, we had already seen iconic sites such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City under clear blue skies. The kids had verbally counted the number of steps they took at the Great Wall. Their little faces beamed with pride when they reached 6,000 steps. During the haze, those faces became sullen because we mostly stayed indoors. Through the eyes of our children, we were able to witness some of mankind’s greatest achievements and some of its dismal failures.
Six years later, in 2019, we also had a memorable Fall holiday in Thailand. We witnessed thousands of glowing paper lanterns ascend into the starry sky at the Yi Peng Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai. It was a magical sight but not without a few scares. Many small fires broke out around us. We prevented several people from backing into the open flames that filled the jam-packed venue. Some participants attached fireworks to their lanterns, with the sparks coming dangerously close to the crowd. One of my husband Noel’s lanterns rose and then fell, threatening to land on someone’s head. Fortunately, the wind picked up and carried it away. It was a close call.
The dangerous event startled us, but we can laugh about it now. We filed the misadventure under “risks we were happy not to know ahead of time.” Otherwise, we might have given the extraordinary event a miss.
We traveled abroad for most Fall breaks until the pandemic prevented us from doing so. The social restrictions in Singapore were tough, but we made the most of it. In 2021, we camped inside the house, renting fancy teepees, a light projector, and a large movie screen from Glamping City. In the front yard, we fired up a small BBQ grill to make s’mores. We gathered around the hot grill during a typically humid night to melt our marshmallows and chocolate bars. While sweating profusely, we asked, “Whose bright idea was this anyway?” We laughed at our own absurdity.
When pandemic restrictions lifted, we booked our first Fall trip to Ubud in Bali. There, we enjoyed cooking and Keliki painting lessons, long massages, warm hospitality, and the flu. Yes, the flu! It was not COVID but still left us reeling with a week of piercing headaches, high fevers, and gastrointestinal symptoms.
It may seem strange to share stories of misadventures. However, they remind us of life’s unpredictability and serve as the backbone of our resilience training. Our Fall Break flops have exposed our children to the real world just as much as the wins did. They have learned that glitches happen. They can roll with the punches, think of creative solutions, or laugh. Sometimes we lean into the sadness or frustration too. It’s okay. We are nowhere near perfect but we use fails as opportunities to learn.
This October will be Sienna’s second-to-the-last Fall Break before she goes away to college. We’ve booked a trip to Tokyo and Nikko in Japan. On the agenda in Tokyo: Disneyland and Harajuku. In Nikko: unabashed autumn leaf-peeping in the lush mountainous region. Overall, it promises to be a wonderful trip. Either way, we’ll add it to our family’s global resilience-building portfolio. These lessons will hopefully stay with Sienna as she learns to navigate her own way into the world. (Jasmine will not be too far behind!)
Dulce is an award-winning journalist, blogger, and speaker. She has written three children’s books and hundreds of news stories. She currently shares perspectives on her blog (www.windsweptwildflower.com), and on Instagram and Facebook as Dulce Zamora.life. She lives in Singapore with her husband and two daughters.