BELMAR, NJ — When Belmar author Merry Brennan first got serious about a family road trip to 20 national parks, a few friends called her crazy. How could she stay cooped up in a car or campsite with a trio of teens? At the mercy of their adolescent moods? For a whole summer?
After she told them she wanted to ditch the devices, or at least keep use to a minimum, they knew she really lost her marbles. Others, though, envied the idea. They just couldn’t imagine how she’d pull it off. Brennan wrote “Eye Rolls & Awe: A National Park Road Trip with Teens” for both camps.
“Most parents of teens and ’tweens are harried and distracted. Our kids are constantly connected, just not to us,” she noted. “But I’m not exaggerating when I say that carving out an adventure with teens is not only doable, it is transformational for us, for our kids, and for our national treasures.”
Along with sharing the family’s laughs, squabbles and breathtaking views across 7,000 miles of the United States, the book weaves in science, history, teen-focused travel tips and cutting-edge research that highlights the triple impact of their journey:
Parent-Teen Connections. Brennan said many studies show that strong relationships help adolescents develop better social, emotional and academic skills. When moms, dads and caretakers are involved in their teens’ lives, even when the offspring bristle at the butting in, they’re not only more likely to do well, they’re also far less inclined to engage in risky behaviors or consider suicide.
Natural Rx. There’s an abundance of evidence that time in nature heals, said Brennan. It makes us happier, more focused and more creative. From treating anxiety to ADHD to even certain kinds of cancer, research is showing impressive benefits from exposure to the great outdoors.
Public Land Protection. Brennan emphasized that the 400-plus U.S. national parks, monuments and other domains belong to every single American citizen. These places are already threatened by politics and climate change. When parents help ignite their children’s love affair with these natural gems, it buoys the future of the children and these precious spaces.
Beyond the science, Brennan said “Eye Rolls & Awe” gives readers a front row seat to the fun, excitement and beauty of the country. “No video game or action movie could substitute for watching geysers explode, scaling a mountain, or riding roller-coaster rapids,” she said. “From Mesa Verde’s cliff dwellings to Glacier’s mind-boggling ice, my family was awed, amused and truly alive.”
She said they soaked in natural hot springs, had snowball fights in July, and celebrated their son’s 16th birthday under a full moon. She acknowledged there were arguments, physical maladies, and even some despair. “But our bubble of togetherness was remarkable. With few other diversions, our increasingly distant teens actually talked to us,” she explained. “It might sound silly to say, but we really got to know each other. Sure, we had plenty of teen angst. But we also witnessed charming moments of childlike relish and impressive displays of maturity.”
At its core, she added, the book is a story of family, of foibles and of relationship with one another and our remarkable country. “In a million little ways our summer road trip is woven into the fabric of who we are as a family,” she said. “I hope it inspires others to love, protect and spend time with their teens as well as their national treasures.”
Along with “Eye Rolls and Awe: A National Park Road Trip with Teens,” available as a paperback or e-book, Brennan authored the middle-grade biographical novel, “Peace Pilgrim: Walking Her Talk Against Hate.”