Parenting: The Ups and Downs of Summer Family Vacation
For most of us, we don’t get enough time together with those we love the most. Summer family vacations are designed to be great catch-up times to reconnect parents with kids. I hope to help you blow far by this expectation to make your summer family fun into so much more—especially for just “your family”.
Truthfully, relatives have their place. Many great adventures happen when cousins can have extended time to create memories. And frankly, extended family made vacation affordable for us. Thanks to Mike and Brenda, for not only living in California but for putting us up making so many summer vacations great. Candidly, thanks for putting up with us too—hosting 6 Currie’s is no easy task!
But these summer vacation tips are for YOUR family. The following are my best suggestions discovered through our 25 years of holiday practice in getting your week or two together right—well mostly right. You can learn from my screw-ups too. I hope these tips guide you to have more ups than downs in your vacation this year.
1. Slow down…
It’s the change of pace and the change of place that are needed. You need to unwind and your kids need to let loose. For the working spouses, as much as is seriously possible, try to unwrap every last tentacle from the office octopus. Could you really say no to your job for this short time?
I found this so hard to do. Usually I’d go into vacation bagged because I had to get so much done before I left for my holiday. Then, I’d take me 3–4 days to really tear myself mentally free from my normal responsibilities. As stupid as it sounds, on the inside, I’d start to gear up again 2-3 days before we even got home. Maybe worse than this crazy work addiction was that a few years, I was guilty of thinking I was too busy to take my allotted holidays. I was wrong. My family was hurt by it and I was impacted too.
So, work to pull away from the normal routines when you have your vacation time. Take off some place. Try camping even if for a few times. That is real family bonding. Stay up later. Sleep in some. Be careful on being a holiday Hitler by making the schedule your slave driver.
2. Lighten Up…
Count the number of times in the day that you get your children laughing—not CATCH them laughing! But howling because of you. You initiate the games, the fun and the craziness. THIS has to be the time you have time! Be sure to play what they want to play not you.
You can master the use of travel time and we did it before the digital video era. There was a whole ton of car interactive games. We’d play I spy with my little eye or punch buggy or even create a visual scavenger hunt. My wife would have timed treats that couldn’t be opened until certain times. Allow time for reading but also create havoc. Don’t be a party pooper. Steam roll the kids. Take all the pranks back on you in good fun. Capture these moments. Create family memories. Choose a FaceBook moment each day to post!
And incidental learning in the course of travel and interaction is fine. But please be cautious on trying to convince kids that “learning” is fun. Remember, vacation is to be a change of pace for them too.
3. Shut Down…
Power down. Take a breath and yes, turn electronics off. Better still—get out of cell range. Disconnect from your electronics. Agree on slots in the day when all can indulge if needed but by and large, make family vacation “US” time. Technology has allowed us to take our work with us more and more. Between, cell phones, emails, texting and Skype, you have a virtual office wherever you are. Be disciplined to disconnect and connect where it really matters. My grandson caught the distraction of my cell phone when he wanted my undivided attention. He’d actually push the phone away if I grabbed it to look at something. He knew he didn’t have me. I think this alone makes it harder to be a parent today than even 15 years ago.
4. Loosen Up
RULES can fade a bit. I guess that’s okay cause its family vacation. You know the “you can’t swim for an hour after eating” warning that many of us grew up with. IT’S BOGUS!!! I would prefer to skip eating lunch if I couldn’t keep swimming. So as a dad, I deliberately put my kids in the water after lunch and stood vigil to see if they’d drown. Nobody did. Oh what I was forced to go through as a child. Loosen up mom and did.
And what’s with kids and fire? Camping may be a time to let them play with fire—though I recognize there is a complete fire ban now. Try new and crazy events and activities. See some unusual sights. Look at life from your kids’ perspective. When they hit the teen years—it was “Six Flags” and not Disneyland! Try shooting Bull Frogs and eating frogs legs. Rent or borrow quads, bikes, canoes, anything to do something different. We tried cliff jumping, water fights and gathering critters—mice, salamanders, snakes, spiders, beetles, bugs, worms, slugs, baby birds, caterpillars and more. Live life and learn about life.
5. Stand down…
Vacation needs to be a “no fight zone”. Mom and dad need to lay aside their petty or even bigger differences for a time and do their best to make happy memories for everyone. Back off on issues. Agree to disagree. Show more patience. Don’t wreck the moment by your attitudes and reactions like I did sometimes. On too many occasions, my type A personality would want to master the day’s schedule. In my mind, I was doing it for them—giving them more time at the big event or activity. But my pushy impatience didn’t lend itself to good vibes between us. It was the farthest thing from a relaxed, fun atmosphere. I had become a holiday Hitler! CHILL parents. Work to enjoy the time before the scheduled main event.
6. Look Up…
Connect your moments in gratitude to the Lord. God isn’t on holidays. He would love to go with you on your family vacation. Open and close the day in prayer as a family. Visit a church on Sunday in the area you are staying. Talk about what’s different than your church. Share your stories of when you were their age and how God influenced you then. Try to create at least one life and God sharing time. Sing worship songs in the car together. Share what God is teaching you. Have a “what are you thankful for” session at the end of the day. Thank God for safety, for fun and for building a stronger family. Keep perspective. God does want you to have a great marriage and a solid family. Take Him with you this summer.
You’ll never regret putting your marriage and family first this summer!
© Dr. Dave Currie – July 2015
Feature image used with permission: 123rf.com/image #42249715/© Cathy Yeulet