The approach of summer is laced with so many expectations—relaxed schedules, lazy days, warm evening bar-b-ques, no homework, lighter responsibilities, and vacations! So many parents have memories from their youth of family vacations that were fabulous. And for the kids, vacations are usually just that… fabulous! But that’s not always the case for parents.
It is for this reason that I challenge you with this question: Do you know the difference between a vacation and a trip? A trip is what you do with children; a vacation is for parents alone. Here is the good news: there is room and need for both!
While family vacations (heretofore to be known as “family trips”) are possibly the best memory makers there are, they can also be challenging for parents—the planning, the arranging, the organizing, the packing, the paraphernalia, the schlepping. But when you are actually on the road, and you’re utterly exhausted from “going on vacation,” that’s when the memories begin. Everyone remembers the time the suitcase flew off the top of the car, the bear that broke into the food stash, the face mask that sank to the bottom of the ocean. And you remember climbing all the way to the top of the peak, swimming with dolphins, and roasting marshmallows on the campfire. These vacation memories provide fodder for family folklore forever more. And it is these memories that stay… not the pain of getting there. But more often than not, the parents come home exhausted from the trip. No vacation for them.
Family trips are, nonetheless, the mortar that binds families together, especially when it’s just your own family…no friends, no cousins, no add-on’s. It is amazing how your kids, who are often at one another’s throats, manage to get along when there’s no one else with whom to play. It’s on family trips that Dad actually has the time to snorkel, to hike, to play a whole set of tennis with both kids, chatting all the while. Mom relaxes or struts her athletic prowess, never having to stop and put dinner on. In building a sense of family, taking trips together, despite the giant effort it can take to pull them off, are well worth it.
But what about you? Here’s where vacations come into the picture. A vacation is when the parents escape for some extended time together…without the children. It’s more than just dinner and a movie. It’s awakening for one morning by your inner alarm and not by the cacophony of kids arguing over which show to watch. It’s eating breakfast whenever you want or not at all. It’s reading the whole newspaper. It’s talking together (uninterruptedly) about something other than the kids and their issues.
I know, I know. You think that’s just impossible. But vacations actually happen in places other than Hawaii and they don’t have to be for ten days. Sometimes ten hours do the trick, and the hotel on the other side of town might not be half bad. Vacations are about parents getting time alone to connect and to remember why you are together in the first place.
Parents who are connected to one another are better parents. They are on the same page. Their cupboards are full. They are mutually supportive. But you have to make it happen. And that’s why I say take a summer trip and a summer vacation.