Why are family vacations important? After all, aren’t you thinking about your family all the time anyway? If you have children, don’t you kind of work every day largely to support them and ensure their quality of life will be what you’d like it to be? Are we not driven crazy by food preparation, homework and weekend blues and boredom constantly as it is? Yes, yes, and yes.
Also, we laugh with our kids at home. We have inside jokes. We take walks with them along the water. We do chores together and watch awesome movies and boo together at the worst contestants on American Idol.
So why do we need to plan, spend and pour energy into a family vacation? What’s the difference?
For one thing, family vacations are vastly different from vacations you may take alone or with your significant other. Family vacations require planning and including ideas and activities which will enrich all members of your family, not just a couple.
This kind of planning means really thinking about each other; what do your kids and your honey like or dislike? It causes them to think about you, too. What are you allergic to? Do car rides make you sick? Are you a hiker or a lounger?
Just the act of thinking of each other and taking one another’s needs into consideration is a positive and bonding exercise for families. It promotes empathy and can change your perspective, maybe permanently, as you begin to see things from their point of view.
Second, getting out of the daily routine of chores, responsibilities, school, work, familiar friendships and walking the dog can bring you closer as a family unit. Sharing “downtime” together, or experiences based on a sense of adventure and leisure can encourage crazy things like laughter, more deeply understanding and knowing one another, positive feelings toward each other and shared memories.
Some of the fondest memories I have of my childhood revolve around crazy car trips with my parents who were great at long distance driving. Even though it wasn’t and still isn’t my favorite of all activities, just spending time with them in the car, listening to music, singing, and reading quietly in the backseat while they talked or looked out of the window brings back a sense of peace and safety for me. Taking care of my little brother in the backseat is also something I’ll always remember. Or diving into icy waterfalls in the middle of the woods in upstate New York. Camping and staying up late with my flashlight, getting up at the sunrise with my folks to go swimming in a nearby pond, waking up at 5:00 a.m. in Brooklyn to pile into the car for a day of skiing at Hunter Mountain--these memories are visceral and profound, at times easier to connect with than memories of going to school every day and helping with dishes.
Aimee Boyle is a writer and teacher in CT. She is a regular contributor to EmpowHER.
Edited by Alison Stanton