by Jennie Smith
What’s your dream vacation? Mine involves a beach house, six to seven good books, a daily nap, and spending quality time with my boys. I got pretty close to that this year…it was a cabin in the forest, two and a half good books, an occasional nap, and great quality time with my boys. It was relaxing and as close to beautiful as I could get. But before the beauty came the battle.
We arrived Friday evening and had a great day Saturday – exploring a variety of activities at the resort. And then came Sunday…The sleeping accommodations were not satisfactory. The playground was too small. The pool has too many rules. Do we have to have sandwiches again?! My personal favorite was: The pool fogs up my goggles! And, of course, when you are out of other things to complain about….I’m bored!
I wanted to slow our lives down for seven days. For seven days I wanted to take a break from the hustle and bustle, from the vegetating in front of video games that occurs too often, and look each other in the face and talk. Doesn’t that sound nice? For this up and coming generation, this is difficult. Their lives are full of activity and slowing down feels like pure torture and no where near what some of us would define as a “vacation.”
But I’ve decided that it is absolutely necessary – and very much worth the battle – to teach my children to be still. If they are too busy to have a face to face conversation with their parents, how will they ever make the time to have a conversation with the Lord? So while it may be a battle to teach them to slow down for a time, it is a skill they need to learn. Much like we teach them to clean up after themselves and be polite to others, we need to teach them to quiet down their lives, even if it is for a short time.
If you decide to embark on this type of journey with your kids, here are some suggestions that come as a result of what I now call…”The Sunday of Complaints:”
While I thought I had given them the basic overview of what our week would be like, I think I made it sound too exciting. In attempting to make them look forward to going on this trip, I painted a picture of all kinds of activities we could do. I should have also said, “I’m really looking forward to some quiet time too. I can’t wait to play Uno as a family and challenge you to a game of chess. But I also plan to read a book and spend some time being quiet with Jesus.” I think we could have avoided a little of the drama by talking about the quiet times as well as the fun times.
As I was talking with the boys that Sunday afternoon, I got really honest with them. I told them that I had planned this vacation for us, picked the resort, planned the meals, packed us all, and dreamed about the kind of time this would be for us as a family. And I said, “With every complaint you make, it hurts my feelings.” I wasn’t doing this to manipulate, but I felt they needed to know what their words were doing. Don’t be afraid to bare your heart to your kids. I think this is one of the main reasons they worked hard to appreciate what the vacation had to offer – they desired to please their mom and not hurt her feelings.
Provide a Complaint Notebook (kudos to my mom for this idea!)
That Sunday I put out a notebook and pen and said that any further complaints could be written down, but not verbalized. I figured this would be a good outlet for them to register their disappointments and for me to have some peace. Surprisingly, I heard no more complaints, but the notebook was empty too.
The vacation ended up a complete success. We had an incredible time as family. We talked a lot, laughed a lot, played a lot, and were completely blessed as a result. Hear the thoughts from the guys themselves:
Levi (12 years old): “It was fun. We spent a lot of time with Dad” (who works second shift) “There were some times where there wasn’t really anything to do, but it was fun. The go-karts were fun and fast. It was worthwhile to slow down.”
Caleb (9 years old) “It was fun and really good. It felt good to get out of the house and heat. Our family time was really good and we slowed it down a lot. It went really, really slow, but at the end of the week it felt like it went fast. I would do a slow down vacation sometime.”
Drew (4 years old): “It was cool and I wuv it. I like playing Uno…and Chess…and Skipbo…and the park…and go around the bridge….”