Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about vacations. Maybe it’s the cold, gloomy weather or the long stretch until spring arrives. Maybe it’s that I’m looking at my children growing up before my eyes and wondering how many more family trips we’ll manage before our oldest flies out of the nest. Possibly it’s the incredible Christmas gift given to me by my awesome husband, who sorted, edited, printed and placed into beautiful albums ten years of family photos, which included many pictures of fun family trips. Whatever the reason, vacation is on my brain. I’m longing for sand, palm trees and sunshine and time away from the hectic freeway that we call life in the Metzger household.
Vacations are something that I hold very dear. I grew up with a father who placed paramount importance on taking his family to different places to enjoy time together “away from it all”. While we did not have a great deal of money, somehow he always managed to make it happen for us. Our trips weren’t always glamorous, but they were definitely memorable. They usually involved a road trip, a cabin and lots of time spent playing games, swimming and exploring new places. I remember trips to places such as Hard Labor Creek, Georgia (my favorite, believe it or not!); Branson, Missouri; DisneyWorld; Cape Cod; Yellowstone National Park; and many places up and down the East Coast (during the 3 years we lived in Connecticut). We saw historical monuments, beautiful scenery and man-made theme parks. Often we went with dear friends; sometimes it was just the four of us. The one thing that these trips all had in common was this: uninterrupted togetherness. We played together, laughed together, ate together and explored together. These times are some of my most treasured memories of my childhood and the end result of these trips (whether to places near or far) was a family closeness that I now know was far from ordinary.
When my husband and I first started a family, one of the things we agreed upon early on was that we wanted to make vacations a priority. It was worth sacrificing other things to make sure that we made these family times happen and happen as often as possible. We’ve taken our children to places such as California, Florida, Arizona, and even Hawaii (which definitely required the saving of our pennies!) and once or twice even “vacationed at home” when money was tight. It thrills my heart to hear my children relate stories of our various trips, usually predicated by “Remember when…?” While sitting at lunch with my kids the other day, we began the game of “remember when?” They reminisced about trips to Legoland and Disneyland, climbing rocks in Arches National Park, sunny afternoons on the beaches of Kauai, and even the not-so-wonderful-but-definitely-memorable trip to California that ended up with Noah in the hospital with a severe asthma attack. They laughed and told story after story and I felt my heart swell with mixed emotions. It brought me so much joy to hear their special memories and so much sadness to feel the end of such times drawing near. I made sure to impart the hope that they would continue such traditions with their own children someday.
What makes these times so special? Is it the location, or the lodging, or even the amount of money spent? I don’t think so. While we’ve been blessed to take some pretty nice trips with our kids, I know that what really counts here is the uninterrupted family time. It is so wonderful to be away from the ringing telephone, the demanding schedules and the constant distraction from what is important. To have an entire block of time where your only commitment is to spend time enjoying each other is a slice of heaven (well, most of the time anyway!). Conversations are held that might not happen at home. Silliness and laughter occur and siblings discover the joy of playing with each other and with Mom and Dad. Kids are given undivided attention and love, which they all crave so desperately. Dad is able to disconnect from work worries and just play. Mom can leave behind the mountains of laundry and household tasks that demand her attention at home. In our overscheduled and hectic lives, family vacations may not be a luxury, but a necessity. It seems we’ve forgotten how to enjoy each other. My son recently overheard a conversation in a store where one woman said to another, “How can you stand to take a vacation with your family every year? That would be terrible!” The other woman replied, “Yeah, it’s really hard, but we live through it.” How sad is it that we view family vacation as something to “live through” instead of enjoy?
In our house, vacations are long-anticipated and oft-remembered. I pray that when my children are grown and have families of their own that they will make family vacations a priority, too. The benefits of this time together will far outweigh the sacrifices necessary to make a vacation possible. It isn’t about money…it’s about time. So now, please excuse me…I think I’ll go work on planning our next vacation.
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