Late winter is the time when many of us parents start making plans for summer vacation.
Resting together while enjoying some unscheduled leisure is a wonderful way to make memories that will be shared by your children with their children and their children’s children.
Summer vacations become part of your family lore and really bind your children in a fun way to their siblings and to yourselves. Even a stay home vacation with fun day trips is time well spent.
In Genesis, we are told that on the seventh day God rested. He saw that His work was good and He blessed the day of rest and made it holy. By this we know that rest is good, and to rest with our families is a particularly worthy thing since in these days, we live such rushed lives.
Between completing all the schoolwork and doing all the extracurricular activities, the work of the home and the obligations of community and parish, and then of course earning a living (which often involves more than one job per household), it seems that rest, leisure, and relaxation together as a family are at a premium.
That being said, taking a bunch of kids, even a small bunch, on a trip isn’t particularly restful. Worthy, definitely, but restful, not always, at least not for Mom and Dad! There are the planning, the packing, the budgeting and researching, and those are all before you set foot out of the door.
How about the gargantuan task of getting all the stuff in the car and keeping track of it all until you get home again? I have left more pacifiers, bottles, stuffed animals, books and blankets around this country than I can possibly count.
St. Augustine tells us that our souls are best at rest when we rest in God. I’m thinking he never took eight kids on a thousand-mile car trip. However, there really are ways to rest in God while on vacation.
It takes us paying attention to the small things that God reveals to us as we journey, and being open to His message for this time in our lives. We have to be willing to see God’s hand in our planning and choose time together that bears fruit for Him and our family.
There are many blessings and graces provided by God in our little vacations, many opportunities to grow in love and faith. The twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit can be exhibited right there in
your big van or small motel room.
When an older sibling holds back the hair of a younger one during an episode of car sickness, we see gentleness and generosity.
When one of the children gives up a turn or goes to the back of the line for a brother or sister, there is charity and kindness.
When Dad answers the same question for the eightieth time (think, “are we there yet?”), patience is being taught. In fact, there are many opportunities to flex your patience muscles when traveling with children. Whatever growth I have achieved in this virtue happened almost exclusively in the car.
As mothers, our whole lives revolve around loving our husbands and children, but a vacation gives even more opportunity to demonstrate selfless love. For example, in my house, I show my family that I love them by agreeing to go camping.
In reality, I would rather get tossed off a bridge than sleep in a tent, but my family loves camping, so I slap a smile on and make an effort to enjoy the wilderness, even though the wilderness has dirt and bugs everywhere and I hate both of those things.
I also try to see that my hardworking husband gets to sleep in for a few mornings when we are away, since he rarely gets to sleep in during the normal course of our lives.
I have found that when I make real efforts to put the desires of family first while on a trip, such as making sure everyone gets to see what he or she wants to see, or doing something I normally would not do (a recent vacation excursion to a trampoline park jumps to mind), then I really enjoy myself so much more and everyone else does too.
St. Faustina tells us that to please God we need to do even the smallest things with great love. I think making sandcastles, riding rollercoasters, or paying a ridiculous amount of money to jump on a trampoline qualifies. In the grand scheme of things, these are small actions, but I do them because I love my family, and my family blesses me in return with smiles, hugs, happy faces and rested hearts.
I see the hand of God as peace spreads throughout our family and we return home with a renewed sense of togetherness, bound up in memories of the laughing and silliness of bug bites and ice pop messes. These things are good, and God wants us to rest in Him while we find joy in the family with which He blessed us.
That really is worth putting up with some dirt and bugs.