It’s that glorious time of the year when the kids are out of school, and we head out as a family to camp, or go to the beach, or go to a family reunion, and people ask, “Where are you going on vacation this year?” Vacation? That can’t be the right word. “Vacation” evokes rest, ease, a sense of peace or tranquility even. No, there is no such thing as a “family vacation.” It’s a veritable oxymoron. But if you are headed out on a family trip, here are three things to remember:
- Getting Ready for the Trip is the Most Work: We have to plan everyone’s clothes, shoes (for Mass, for play, for water), swimsuits, and more. And, of course, we must make allowances for weather, comfort, potential vomit or potty accidents, and then we have to be sure it all fits in the car or airplane without costing us precious space and money. Then, we must plan the food and entertainment. We will put enormous pressure on ourselves to make sure the food has some semblance of nutrients and that the entertainment revolve more around books and games than screens. We will give all of these concerns hours and hours of thought, and yet we will inevitably hear, “When are we going to get there?” and “I’m starving,” or “I don’t want carrots,” rather than, “Thank you, Mommy, for all of your hard work; I am enjoying this car ride so much.”
- Our Children Will Embarrass Us: We have offered up the drudgery of the travel for an infusion of grace and obedience never before seen in children. Perhaps they will wow all extended family and onlookers with their quiet demeanor and gracious obedience. Perhaps. Or . . . they will be over-tired, strung out on sugar, and since they’re also missing their routine, they will find the perfect time to humiliate us in front of that one family member whose kids always seem well-behaved, and don’t even like T.V., and ask to pray the Rosary for fun. Family trips are the perfect time for God to build humility in us as mothers. We are just going to have to let him work.
- We Will Need a Vacation When it’s Over: We probably won’t get it, but we will need some time off when it’s all over. We will be shocked at how exhausting it was to be away from home, not to mention, we will have all the laundry to do and the mess to vacuum off the floorboards in the van. And the re-entry will be a challenge for all. This would be the perfect time to take an actual vacation, but I am afraid there is not time for that. In fact, it is probably time to start buying school supplies. And oh, wait, we were going to make the kids do math facts over the summer and read a whole collection of books. We better get to work.
The final thing to remember is that this is all worth it. Sure, it’s exhausting and expensive, but we are also making memories, creating inside jokes, laughing (or even crying) together. We are building our own family culture and reminding our kids that we are their cornerstone―not their peers, not the culture at large. Family trips give us the chance to see one another at our best and at our worst, and to be reminded that this domestic church is exactly what God planned for each of us for such a time as this. The years go too quickly, our time with these beautiful people is limited, and one day we will miss them being under our roofs and in our family vans, and we will remember these exhausting, loud, messy trips as the sweetest family vacations of our lives.