Last Tuesday, my five daughters and I were feeling a little flat. My wife Jodi (their Mum) was in Burnie, Tasmania for several days, attending her father’s funeral, and we were all missing her. A lot.
My father-in-law Neil’s passing was sudden and devastating, especially for Jodi. It’s during times like these I’m thankful for God’s peace which surpasses all understanding, as well as wonderful, supportive family and friends. I’m especially grateful for my faith in Jesus Christ, a faith that Neil also held fast to and shared throughout his life with family, friends and complete strangers.
One of the many great things about homeschooling is the flexibility it affords our family. Opportunities to seek out adventure are only limited by your imagination and budget, but there are ways to escape inexpensively. An adventure together was exactly what the girls and I needed, and an educational road trip could be a good place to start.
Goulburn certainly isn’t the centre of the universe, but it was Australia’s first inland city (as proclaimed by Queen Victoria herself, I’ve since found out), and it’s an easy, not quite 2-hour drive south of Wollongong. Plus, it’s home to The Big Merino, an impressive steel and concrete structure built in 1985 as a monument to Goulburn and the surrounding district’s fine wool industry.
As a child, our travelling family band visited many of Australia’s kitschy Big Things. It’s been at least 20 years since I last stepped inside The Big Merino, so a visit was long overdue. With the KIA Carnival fuelled up, a stash of snacks and plenty of water, we set off!
As we wound our way up beautiful Macquarie Pass, we came across an inquisitive brush-tailed rock wallaby and managed to pause as he peered at us over the guardrail, only metres from the vehicle. With the misty Southern Highlands behind us, we sailed down the sunny Hume Highway.
Slowing now and then for roadworks, the pavement alternated between asphalt and concrete, offering the opportunity to share some basics of road design with my keen-to-learn daughters (some more interested than others). I’m certainly no expert, but I managed to pick up a few things during my years filming and producing road safety videos for Transport for NSW.
After a quick lunch at the excellent Trappers Bakery, we stepped inside The Big Merino, aka ‘Rambo’. Admittedly, he is looking a little tired these days, but the girls had a great time exploring, climbing the stairs and looking out of Rambo’s ‘eyes’. The Big Merino also houses a permanent exhibition on the 200-year history of wool in Australia, which was very informative.
From there, we further explored the grand heritage and country charm of Goulburn. Considering it’s currently springtime, Belmore Park was especially beautiful – the girls didn’t want to leave! On a whim, I suggested we pop out to Crookwell before heading home (the location of a memorable childhood memory for me). I’m glad we did because the girls spotted a cute echidna digging for ants on the way into town, which we stopped to look at, providing more entertainment and delight.
To top it all off, heading into Moss Vale on our way home, I spotted a stranded eastern long-necked turtle in danger of being run over. Not wanting to miss another great opportunity, I performed a quick U-turn (safely, of course). Needless to say, the girls were thrilled we managed to rescue it, and they promptly named it Harriet.
What a day to remember it was! Kids are memory-makers, and I’m constantly amazed at the curiosity my daughters display. The challenge for us dads is to facilitate as many opportunities as we possibly can to make memories and help our kids thrive.
As seven-year-old Molly Wright, one of the youngest-ever TED speakers, so beautifully demonstrates, dads have a critical role to play in their children’s healthy brain development. Research shows the benefits of play and adventure for kids last a lifetime. Dads, do your best to make memories with your kids — you won’t regret it.
Listen to Molly Wright and learn how a child can thrive by five. Most importantly, if you can, put words into action. Even if your kids are all grown up, you can still enjoy an adventure together. It doesn’t need to be expensive — it could be as simple as a road trip to your nearest ‘big thing’. It’s never too late for a day to remember.
Yours for days to remember,
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Originally published at Dads4Kids. Photo by Craig Adderley/Pexels.