Why going back to our roots became a new family pact: ‘This is what I needed’

Lizzy Mathis is an In The Know by Yahoo parenting contributor. Check out her site, The Cool Mom Co., and follow her on TikTok and Instagram for more.

This past summer, my husband and I made a pact. Now, the last pact we made was as two young and in-love, freshly married individuals who vowed to never put their careers ahead of family. We stuck to that pact and now, 12 years later, we have three amazing children and full-time careers. Life is, of course, busy, and time feels fleeting more often than not. However, this new pact we made was one out of necessity, for our kids and for ourselves.

Lizzy Mathis and her family on vacation
Lizzy Mathis and her family on vacation

Our pact was to take the summer and travel back to our roots. The past couple of years have been a roller-coaster ride for many of us, and distance from some family was one of our biggest pain points. I’m lucky enough to have my brothers live in the same city as we do, but my husband hadn’t seen his parents and most of his siblings in three years due to the pandemic.

Also, earlier this year, my mom unexpectedly passed. That tragedy instantly sobered me to the realization of how truly important family is and how unimportant other things are. We saw each one of our kids feel a lack of community during the pandemic and then watched them process the death of their grandmother, to whom they were extremely close. While no one could ever fill that void, we knew we all needed something. We were all craving something. So we made the decision to dedicate summer 2022 to finding our foundation again.

Family is the foundation you stand on

My mom always told me: Your family is the foundation you stand on, and never forget where you come from. Our goal was to make sure our kids knew where we came from. The tradition in years past, pre-pandemic, was to travel to my husband’s hometown every Thanksgiving. My mom was based in California with us, so we never had much of a reason in past years to travel to my hometown. This past summer, it was time to change that and get back to our roots. We each packed one carry-on suitcase and flew to Birmingham, Ala., where my husband was born.

In Alabama, the kids hugged my husband’s parents for what seemed like hours. They played, talked and sang with all of their cousins for a week straight. We explored recipes together, ate so many home-cooked meals and simply enjoyed each other’s company. The foundation was mending right before my eyes. This is what my kids needed.

From Birmingham, we road-tripped to Nashville. My husband has family there and a lot of close friends. He finished college in Nashville and loves showing the kids all of his old stomping grounds. They had not been in so long, so to him it felt as if he was sharing the stories and places for the first time again. The smile on his face when he saw that his brother had prepared a fish fry upon our arrival and again when he saw how tall his nephews had grown was as if light had poured into his soul. This is what my husband needed.

Where I call home

After Nashville, we hopped on another plane and flew to Detroit. This is the place I call home. I was born and raised right outside of the city line. I had not been to Detroit for a proper stay in several years. I remember bringing my oldest there when she was 3 years old, but our two other kids had never been. It was uncomfortable being back in the city since my mom had passed. The little family I had in Michigan consisted primarily of my 18-year-old nephew, who regardless of his coolness and new young-man status, still hung out with us and playfully engaged with his younger cousins.

However, this was my time to show my children where my foundation was made. Upon my husband’s nudging, we took them to every school I’d ever attended, every house and apartment I’d ever lived in, and we saw the people who had made an impact on my life — the ones who I can honestly say helped to shape who I am today, from my childhood best friend to my mentor in high school. My kids asked questions. They looked with curiosity. They hugged me and held my hand when they could sense it was hard. Tears flowed endlessly, and my heart felt full and warm. This is what I needed.

Through our experiences this past summer, I was reminded of how deeply your immediate family and your chosen family can impact your lives and, therefore, your kids’ as well. We each received exactly what we needed from this trip. The lesson learned: In a world of such uncertainty, remember that your roots help to tell your story. Involving your kids is another way to build on that foundation.

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