My family just got back from a trip up north to Indiana to visit family and go to the Indiana State Fair. I could write an entire post on how excited I was to go to the fair after not being able to go for the last three years. Or about how anxious I was to introduce my husband to the fair and all my favorite childhood memories. And even about how I wanted my kids to fall in love with it the way I did when my family would go annually as a big group on opening day.
I could write about all of that, but I realized that my sense of nostalgia and love for old traditions was maybe getting in the way of our enjoyment of this trip. Nostalgia is defined as “a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life.” Another definition is “a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time.”
As I prepared for our trip, I found myself reminiscing on the excitement that would build up each year when it was fair time. My family would hype it up and talk for days about all the things we would see and do (and eat!) at the fair. We’d discuss our plans to get up super early, drive to Indianapolis, get parked in the infield, and watch the opening day hot air balloon race. I told my husband stories about how much fun I had and how fondly I remembered the fair. It was important to me to introduce my family to this tradition that held so much meaning to me.
Cue fair day this year.
Our family settled into the car to head to the fairgrounds, and it was all so different from my memories. We left later in the morning than I had as a child since we had no hot air balloon race to catch. We arrived in rainy weather and slipped on ponchos to avoid getting soaking wet. We found out several of the buildings had changed or been torn down, and there were new buildings in places that we got to explore. Rather than making our way around the fairgrounds the way I did as a child, we mostly followed the whims and desires of my kids in the morning and early afternoon.
My kids complained about being tired of walking, they begged to ride midway rides, they didn’t eat much at all despite all the delicious food options. We did a lot of walking and explored several places, including new buildings, but at the same time, we missed a lot of my favorite buildings and exhibits.
I don’t know about you, but I suppose I never realized just how much nostalgia is for adults.
I tried to make the trip about reliving all the joys of my childhood state fair adventures, and it ended up making the whole trip harder than it should have been. I wanted my kids and husband to share something that I had done as a kid, but I didn’t feel open to shifting my priorities and letting us have a fun new experience as a family. Instead I tried to make sure we followed some of my old stand-bys.
Now, of course, we did have fun and even did things I didn’t do as a child. My kids had the chance to experience buildings that weren’t there when I was little and an entire “Little Hands on the Farm” exhibit that gave them the opportunity for hands-on fun. And we simply couldn’t follow the way I’d done the fair before because of how things had changed and when we went. But I think if I’d focused more on making fun, new memories with my kids rather than trying to shoehorn in my nostalgic traditions, I’d have been less grumpy and would have seen the entire day as a new adventure.
I’m not sad we went, but I want this to be a lesson for me going forward. Nostalgia is for grown-ups, and when I’m taking my kids to places they’ve never been or trying to follow traditions I’ve held close, I should remember that sometimes it’s more fun to look at it as a totally new experience and let us all make our own decisions on how to enjoy things together.