I’m writing this a few weeks before our world goes dark. A total solar eclipse will slide on a narrow path across the beltline of this country in late August.
When you are in the path of totality, the sun will be completely obstructed by the moon for a few moments. This darkness at noon will confuse animals. As the moon dims the sun, animals that are active during the day will scurry to their nests, thinking it’s bedtime. Nighttime creatures will stretch and come to life. And then, as the ball of fire rises above the massive rock, life will return to normal. Robins will hop to the ground to hunt for worms. Owls will retreat to their beds.
You will be able to witness the eclipse from most parts of the country. But to experience the total eclipse most people will have to travel to remote regions that are in the path of totality.
I, unfortunately, will be one of those people.
Why? Because I am now a parent, and as a parent it is apparently my duty to spend many hours in a car battling soul-crushing traffic to see the sun go dark for a few minutes. As a parent, it is incumbent on you to force your kids—who are already threatening to kill you for imprisoning them in a car on one of their final days of summer break—to have “experiences.”
While I agree with this in principle, I’m desperately searching for a loophole in the parenting handbook that relieves you of your “teachable moments” responsibilities if those moments involve being locked in a car with teenagers for over six hours.
My spouse, who is a wonderful and patient mom, is insisting we drive 10 hours to the path of totality to watch the eclipse. My initial reaction was to remind her that we see the sun go dark every damn day. “Plus, we aren’t even allowed to look at it,” I reminded her. “It will burn our eyes to cinders or turn us into salt or something terrible like that if we stare at it. Can’t we just watch it on the news? Or turn the kitchen light off for a few minutes and pretend it’s the sun?”
“We’re going,” she said firmly. “It’s for the children. They need to have this experience. They might not appreciate it now, but they will when they’re older.”
I remember my mother saying the same thing when we were kids. She said it when we took our first trip to Washington, DC. We made our parents’ lives a living hell on that trip, whining nonstop about how we wanted to be in the hotel pool and not in museums. She said it when she made us stand in line for five hours to see the King Tut exhibit. We dragged her through the exhibit in less than 10 minutes to get her to our preferred destination: the museum snack shop.
There are very few “experiences” that my parents forced on us that were not met with full-out rebellion. Yet, they are the moments I remember best from my childhood. Now, as an adult, I realize that each of those experiences must have been absolute misery for them. Yet, they kept trying.
That’s the great thing about having kids. It makes you rethink your own parents and appreciate them in a new way.
So, when we sat down the kids to give them the bad news about the eclipse trip, I took the lead. “You’ll hate us for it now, but when you grow up, you’ll realize what jerks you were and it will make you like us better. Plus, it will be really cool to see the animals freak out.”