Prison visits can either tear a family down or build a family up.
There are a lot of things about visiting your man in prison that you have no control over, but you can control whether these visits help or hurt your family. Barbed wire, metal detectors, corrections officers, bars, and loud clanging doors are not the ideal setting for creating family-bonding moments. However, you can create beautiful memories in the midst of visiting your husband in prison.
How can you create an awesome experience for your kids?
I have talked a lot about how to make the most of your visits inside of the prisons. Today, I am blogging about how to create an awesome experience for your kids that includes a visit to see their dad. It is easy to lose sight of the “before the visit” and the “after the visit” when we are planning our time together. However, the before and after make up most of the time your family spends focused on the same event- the visit together.
Unless this is your first time here, you know that our family spent 15 years of family gatherings in prison visiting rooms.
We learned a lot about how to make the best of the worst season in our lives. My sons have a lot of really good memories of spending time with their dad in prison visiting rooms—but their favorite visiting experiences were the ones that included other activities. The best memory they have of visiting their dad in prison was the time we went 2 days in a row and then spent the night at a hotel in between visits. It was their first time staying in a hotel and it was magical for them!
One Christmas, a church decided to give us the gift of spending more time together as a family.
They paid for one night at a hotel with an indoor heated pool, gave us a gift certificate for pizza for dinner, and a gas card to cover our gas there and back. Moreover, the best part was that the hotel was only minutes from Ron! We went down to visit him and played games, ate together and shared updates about our lives with each other. Then, instead of going home, I drove to the hotel. The boys were beyond shocked and excited!
They scrambled out of the car and then ran into the hotel.
I could barely contain them while I checked into the hotel. I don’t think they ever changed their clothes so quickly in their lives! Before I knew it, we were in the swimming pool. My beautiful boys laughed, and splashed, and played together for hours. Even when Brandon lost his tooth in the pool, he was so excited that he had lost it in a POOL that he was not sad that he couldn’t find it. (Kinda gross, I know!—but super cool for him at the time.) I was thankful the pool had a closing time because I didn’t think I would ever get those boys out of that pool.
We went back up to our room, ordered our pizza, showered and got ready for bed.
After the pizza arrived, I presented each of the boys with their Christmas present. They opened their presents on the bed and then squealed with delight over the toys they would play with “in the hotel room next to where daddy lived!” Being so close to the prison made them feel so close to their dad. Everything around us was also around their dad. He was seeing the same lights out of his window that we were seeing. The same position of the stars, the same weather. They fell asleep that night with smiles on their faces. I looked at their little faces and was grateful for the gift of a fun experience that included their daddy.
The visit the next day was full of more laughter and smiles as the boys shared their hotel experience with their dad. It was truly a magical visit. I learned the importance of creating memories around prison visits was just as important as creating them during prison visits. Although I couldn’t afford to make every visit an adventure, I was more intentional about adding other experiences into our journey to the prison whenever possible.
As you make the trek to visit your husband, think about how you can build memories around that visit. Look for museums, parks, restaurants, or landmarks that are near the prison and visit them. Save your money and then make the 2-day visit an annual event for your family, or create a vacation around prison visits. Overall, you must remember that these months and years are creating the foundation of your family-time and your children’s childhood memories. You have the power to build a strong, resilient family in spite of prison.
I am rooting for you!