“I’m tired. Let’s go back to the hotel.”
“I’m thirsty. Can’t we have something to drink?”
“My feet hurt. Let’s find a place to sit down.”
We were experiencing what many view as the ultimate vacation, but everyone was miserable. How could we be in the midst of one of America’s most frequented family vacation spots and have everyone so unhappy? Had other families had dismal Disney World experiences, or were we the only ones?
The subject of family vacations stirs up mixed emotions in people. It is one thing to look forward to time away from work and routine responsibilities. It is quite another to negotiate and tolerate the tension that constant togetherness often inspires. Given the energy expenditure involved, as well as the financial commitment required, some might even wonder whether vacations are worth the effort. What makes a vacation worthwhile, anyway? Consider the following factors.
Perhaps the first thing to remember is that all family vacations do not require hours together in an automobile. Some of the best “vacations” may occur in the backyard or close to home. They allow uninterrupted family time apart from regular routine. When children are young, these briefer, less-expensive outings often provide the most enjoyable memories.
One family made a habit of taking picnic lunches to the park in a neighboring community. Their preschool children enjoyed the novelty of eating outdoors, as well as the adventure of using unfamiliar playground equipment. The parents enjoyed a relaxed meal without worries about spilled milk and food on the floor.
As children grow, and finances allow, longer vacations may be possible and more enjoyable. These need to be planned carefully and take into account the energy levels and interests of the whole family. Whatever you decide to do, remember that stress-relief is important for both children and parents. Consider the following guidelines when planning enjoyable time together with people you love, including children:
Some of my favorite memories involve lying on my back, looking up at the stars and talking to my brother and sister. It didn’t cost anything, but the memories are priceless. Make sure you create some time for these kind of experiences to occur, as well, for your children and yourself.
Dr. Jennifer Baker
Dr. Jennifer Baker is the founder and Director of Good Dads. She is the wife of one, mother of two, grandmother of eight, and a licensed clinical psychologist at Lutheran Family & Children Services. She can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ah, summertime. It means so many things to so many people. To kids, it is that golden window of opportunity for freedom in an otherwise long year of pencils, books, and teachers’ dirty looks. But, to parents? It can be a mixed bag.
So much of our parental view of summer ties directly to our memories of those of our own childhoods. The summers of my Michigan boyhood harken back to a slower time, one in which I stayed with my maternal grandparents on their dairy farm, helping with the milking and as I aged, joining the hay harvest crew. We worked hard, but not without rewards. There were long swims in the pond at day’s end, followed by talking to my grandfather by the moonlight on his huge (or what at the time seemed to be huge) front porch. At some point in the summer, my family would load up the old motorhome and make the 18-hour drive to my other grandparents’ retirement village in Florida. For our moderate to good behavior while in a community with not much for kids to do, my siblings and I were always rewarded towards the end of the trip with a day at Walt Disney World. While I spent more time in a RV with a screaming, little sister and an annoying little brother -- not to mention playing shuffleboard with senior citizens -- then I did at the Magic Kingdom, the good memories always won out.
Fast-forward from my childhood summers to those of my own boys during their growing up years, and a lot had changed. Or so it seemed. They didn’t grow up on or near farms, and most often we lived in or near major cities, such as Seattle or Portland. Their summer jobs ranged from shining shoes at a tux shop to mowing lawns. “Rewards” seemed to be pricier and more difficult to plan for, as there was no way they could even ride their bikes to a public pool, like their mom did when she was a kid. Add to these things the fact that sports, music, club and church activities not only didn’t shut down for a couple of months each year, but in fact just expanded, and the idea of a “slow” summer was out the window. Oh, and did I mention the weird phenomenon of parent-shaming that has cropped up since the “Go ahead, kids, and roam the neighborhood all day” non-judgmental parenting times of my 1960s and 1970s upbringing? When did summer get so hard?
Today we're faced with memories of our own childhoods, overloaded schedules, high and often unrealistic expectations. My wife and I didn’t have the fortitude to deal with it all, so we made some decisions regarding summer, pretty early on in the parenting game. First, while we accepted the fact that our kids were growing up in a different day and age – some better things, some worse – we drew some lines in our figurative beach vacation sand. If one of our boys was good enough for the NBA, he would get there without non-stop summer basketball. If one of our boys was good enough for a career in music, he would get there without a month of band camp. Each boy could choose one week of some kind of camp, and as they grew older, were able to go on missions’ trips. Baseball was played, but traveling teams got squashed after one, grueling summer of dragging brothers all over the place to get sunburned while little brother collected dirt and grass stains on his white uniform. As they hit late junior high/early high school, they got jobs. It wasn’t anything like out of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” but the jobs rather gave them a chance to fine-tune their work ethics and earn their own money. The former gave them a sense of pride, while the latter gave them an opportunity to learn to value and manage properly.
And finally, as often as we could save to make happen, we made the trek to Disney World (or Land, if closer.) Oh, I promise you that more time was spent with brothers fighting while waiting in line than actually on the ride, yet the boys now somehow only remember the good.
Maybe, just maybe, my childhood summers and theirs weren’t so different after all
Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at email@example.com
My dad was fond of saying, "Into every life a little rain must fall." Of course, we wish that rain had not fallen last Thursday evening right before the baseball game was supposed to begin.
Even so, we know dads and kids have lots of "stories to tell" about getting wet, loads of people, huddling under the sheltered areas, and hoping the rain would stop. You meet some of the most interesting folks at times like these.
Regardless of the rain and whether or not dads and kids decided to stay for a late game,they still enjoyed the t-shirts, food vouchers and baseball caps. We know some of them even received bobble heads. Good for you.
The Good Dads office is taking a little break from activity for a few weeks, but will soon be on planning more fun activities for dads and kids in late summer and fall. The podcasts and weekly e-newsletter will continue, so keep listening and reading to learn about what's new and what's next.
Thanks again to all the dads and kids who joined us for Good Dads @ the Springfield Cardinals. And a special thanks to Rick's Automotive who helped make it all possible.
Dr. Jennifer Baker
Dr. Jennifer Baker is the Founder and Director of Good Dads. She is the wife of one, mother of two and grandmother of eight. She may be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.