A Promise to Show My Son the World

by Sally Bookman

Sally, Drew and Lee at the Great Wall of China
Sally, Drew and Lee at the Great Wall of China

Our kids were grown, but 13 years ago, my husband and I decided to expand our family. Through an open adoption, Drew entered our lives: blond, blue-eyed and beautiful, at just seven weeks. I was in my mid 50s at the time and my husband, Lee, was 60. We were older than most, but Drew’s birth mother liked how we wrote about traveling with our other children and sending all three off to college in our application, so she allowed us to adopt him.

She wanted a better life for him that would include a chance to see the world and an emphasis on education. Being older, we felt we couldn’t be the energetic parents we were with our others, but we could travel the world with him, especially through cruising.

We’ve kept that promise. Since the age of 2, Drew has traveled on Princess Cruises seven times; a cruise to Alaska, the Panama Canal and cruising around the Caribbean; enjoying the Kids Zone and the ports of call. Just how important travel would be to Drew wasn’t clear until we came home from a 16-day Asia cruise, from Beijing to Singapore aboard the cruise ship, Diamond Princess.

It was Drew’s longest cruise yet and we weren’t sure how his teachers would feel about us taking him out of school for two weeks. He has learning issues, so school hasn’t been easy for him, making every day a struggle. Drew is extremely bright and very social, but he suffers from anxiety issues which make it difficult for him to take tests and focus on assignments.

Drew’s teachers reassured us that travel was also a learning opportunity and that such a trip could build confidence in him. I bought Drew a camera for the cruise, so he could literally focus on what interested him most. We also had him write a daily journal.

Some days were easier than others. Drew didn’t like seeing eels get their heads chopped off in South Korea, but he enjoyed seeing one of the world’s largest fish market in Pusan. He also loved the jade museum in Beijing, where he took dozens of close-ups with his camera, and was equally fascinated by the street signs of the city. Drew is fascinated by the details.

The friendships Drew made during the cruises are another thing he treasures. On this trip, he met Samantha, a 13-year-old girl from South Carolina.  The two hit it off like you wouldn’t believe. Drew taught her how to play shuffleboard and they ran around the cruise ship together. She is a more serious student and I think some of that rubbed off on him.

Coming home brought the big surprises of the trip. His teachers reported that he seemed like a new person, bouncing with enthusiasm and confidence. I am getting daily reports that his grades are often the top in the class, and that is definitely new. We think that he feels more confident about handling studies because of what he has seen and done.

Around the house, Drew takes out the trash without complaining. Before, whenever we asked him to do something, he would start a big argument. We all came back refreshed, but Drew seems to walk taller. I think he grew up a bit.

On the social side, he and Samantha are keeping in touch through Skype; her family has even invited him to visit over the summer.

Travel has helped define all of our children…our older ones have grown up to find work and recreation across many borders. It’s too early to say what Drew will grow up to be, but whatever he pursues, I suspect that travel will play some part in it.

My husband and I will continue to keep our pledge to his birth mother, of showing him the world. In fact, amazed and delighted as we are by our family trip to Asia, we are already looking into the next adventure with Drew—a Princess cruise to Russia.

Sally lives in Santa Cruz, California.  She’s enjoyed seven Princess cruises with Lee and Drew.