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Life stressing you out? Vacate It!

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Family vacations become 'happiness anchors' that children hold on to for the rest of their lives.

Spring is a crazy time. Between Easter, first Communions, sports seasons, and the school year wrapping up, we hardly have time to catch our breath. So spring is also invariably the time when the house starts to get beyond my control, and my frustration with the demands of family life gets in the way of my actual family.

This is probably familiar to a lot of you, given the amount of vacations that tend to happen in the spring. Families seem to intuitively know what science is just now starting to prove — that vacations are vital for both adults and children. John McDonald, director of the Family Holiday Association, told the Huffington Post:

The happiest memory of 49 percent of the British people surveyed was on vacation with family. A third said they can still vividly remember family vacations from their childhood. What’s more, a quarter brought up these memories to get them through tough times. “We consider these to be a ‘happiness anchor’— reflecting on our happiest memories of joyful time spent together as a family can be extremely powerful in bringing relief and respite when faced with the darker times that life can bring,”

I vividly remember our summer vacations to Lake of the Ozarks, and that sun-drenched week seemed to expand and make up the whole of my childhood summers. We spent those days just being a family, without life getting in the way.

Unfortunately for us Americans, we don’t have a national charity that helps us afford vacations and not all families can swing a week away. My family is lucky now because we live an hour from the beach, so once my husband’s semester wraps up we can steal away for a day trip. But when we lived in Nevada, we had no such luxury. Every “family activity” cost money and we didn’t have any to spare.

I remember blogging once about being sick of housework and bickering and dishes, and being desperate to escape the monotonous drudgery of motherhood. One of my readers advised that I take time away — not from my family, but from the work of it all. She said I should buy paper plates and corn dogs and spend the day reading books with my kids, building forts, and playing outside.

So I did. And it was glorious.

I realized then that it’s not the travel part of vacations that matter most. Sure, travel adds novelty and excitement, but what kids really remember from those vacations is the time they had with their parents and each other. Reading not just one book but book after book after book, as many books as my kids wanted, was exciting. Reading inside a fort constructed of mattresses and sheets and pillows was magical. Eating corn dogs and throwing away the plates was luxurious. It was a mini-vacation in our living room, and it was exactly what we needed.

Don’t stress if you can’t afford to give your kids a Disney vacation or a cruise — just give them your time. Vacate the daily grind and spend time with the ones you’re always working for. That’s what they want most, anyway.

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