The truth behind safari photos, or the realities of traveling with tweens (even in really cool places!)

This should be a post about our 3 day safari in Chobe National Park in Kasane, Botswana – a short trip across the Chobe River from Zambia.

Yes, there were lions, leopards, giraffes and more elephants that you could imagine.

But this post is not about them, as magical as they were.

It’s about parenting in (what should be) magical places, but having the same (non magical) kids with their same (often very non magical) behaviors.

The whole impetus behind this trip was Zara, who many months ago expressed an interest in going on safari. Around the same time at back-to-school night, we learned her social studies class would be studying Africa this year. And, Zara was in need of finding a meaningful community service project heading into her bat mitzvah.

So the trip was born. Around her. (And, ok, around my and Adam’s interest in getting to a few more countries as we steadily creep closer to our 100 country goal…)

I guess in my mind I had some vision that my kids would happily be in the Land Cruiser truck each day for safari, singing my praises. Thanking me. Recognizing what an awesome and amazing parent I am to organize this trip for them. To take them on my own to see:

  • Elephants
  • Warthogs
  • Hippos
  • Lions
  • Leopards
  • Kudus
  • Impala
  • Zebras
  • Mongoose
  • Jackel

You can take the tweenage girls on safari, but can’t take the tweenage out of the girls

But throughout safari, my tween-age girls were tween-age girls. Moody. Unappreciative. Argumentative. But alternating – as they always do – with periods of humor, good cheer and downright pleasantness.

There was no clear and visible consensus (to me, anyway) at the end of safari that this was (or should have been) one of the awesomest experiences of their lives.

Or that I am the awesomest of mothers for giving it to them.

I mean, in the immortal words of Clark Griswold, we/they should be “having so much fucking fun we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles! You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’ out of your assholes!”

But in reality, “Audrey” and “Rusty” (to stick with the National Lampoon Vacation analogy in homage to my Schneiderman readership) were fighting in the back seat. Spotting animals. Having fun. But not transformed.

But I guess I just expected too much.

My girls will be themselves wherever they are, in whatever nook and cranny of the world I may drag them to. And that flexibility and adaptability and “up for anything” spirit is among their greatest strengths.

And I’ll be myself, warts and all, when it comes to parenting on the road. I must admit, even I got grumpy (no!) and short tempered (no!) on the long hot game drives between actual game sightings.

(I may have told Zara that I was going to punch her in the face at one point. I’m not proud. I mean of course I didn’t do it, but I’m sorry I said it.)

The truth behind parenting on the road is like the truth behind lion photos

Yes, there were moments of absolute excitement and togetherness. But insinuating that the whole trip was amazing would be like just posting one or two close-up lion photos, as if that were the whole picture of the safari.

The truth behind each lion photo is hours of driving on bumpy dirt roads in the hot sun, hoping and hoping you’d stumble across one. And frequently, disappointingly realizing that the motion you saw in the bush was just another impala and another impala and maybe another impala. For hour after hour.

But then you find the lion.

Or you get a smile from your kids.

Or a hand squeeze.

You get the photo you can post on Facebook.

You get the unspoken (and sometimes even the spoken!!) “I love you” to post in your heart…and to “like” later when your kids are challenging you.

You have your pinnacle post-able moments. And you have your pick me up off the floor moments. And in between, life. On safari. On vacation. And home. Anywhere.

I had hoped to briefly be the superstar hero in their eyes. Instead, I remained annoying mom.

But at least: an annoying mom on safari.

NOTE: post was read aloud to, and discussed with, said tweens. Posted with permission…

Here, finally, are some photo highlights of what we saw. (Sorry, my good lion photos are on my DSLR only, as we needed the zoom lens to get the good photos!)

One thought on “The truth behind safari photos, or the realities of traveling with tweens (even in really cool places!)

  1. Adam Ducker says:

    a spot of candor amidst all the heroics. There goes your sponsorship opportunity from the Zambian Tourism Board. I still think you are a great mom.


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