Rite of Passage Parenting: Summer vacations
Summertime, and the living is . . . hot. It’s the time of year when Oklahoma heats up so much the cows start giving evaporated milk and the chickens lay hard-boiled eggs. It’s the time of the year when it doesn’t matter which faucet handle we turn on because hot water comes out of both. It’s the time of the year when I wouldn’t be surprised to see a funeral prossession pull into a Dairy Queen.
Summertime is also the time for family vacations. In the past, I have written about my childhood vacations and the scars they left on my young, impressionable life. For some reason, it seemed important to my parents to repeat this scarring effect until I was old enough to leave home.
Mom and Dad considered it essential to provide us boys with some type of summer experience. Sometimes, we were dropped off at our grandparents’ farm, our favorite place to go. Other years, Mom and Dad dragged us to some exotic place like Minnesota, the Land of a Thousand Lakes. See one and you’ve seen them all. But by golly, it wasn’t a complete vacation until we visited them all.
Our family didn’t have many resources, but we could afford gas, a tent and couple of hot dogs. If you used one word to describe our vacation, it would be togetherness. Like it or not, we were together. Five of us sleeping in a tent and five us piled into a car filled with camping gear, personal belongings and food. Of course, we three boys each had to bring our own set of toys. On our family vacations, there was no shortage of togetherness.
Technology has removed the element of family togetherness from so many things, including vacations. Years ago, the purpose of vacations was for family members to enjoy each other and the world around them. As we traveled from place to place, my brothers and I played games. My dad talked to us: “If you guys don’t cut that out, I’m going to pull the car over!” I heard him say that again and again, but never once did he pull over. And, of course, our dad interacted with us. He kept one hand on the steering wheel as the other flailed around in the back seat in an attempt to smack a boy or two.
Today’s children climb into the SUV, plug in their headphones and listen to music or watch a DVD. We can make a thousand-mile journey without one bit of interaction between family members. We don’t eat together or go to church together. I wonder what today’s children will remember about the times they spent with their parents.
These days, we don’t have any small children in our immediate family. But when I take my little niece out on a drive, we still play the old car games. She also loves to sing, so the two of us make up a bunch of silly songs and have fun laughing about them. Car rides provide great opportunities for redeeming the time.
Should you take away all your children’s electronics? Only if you want them to call the Child Abuse Hotline. But perhaps you can find a way to be intentional and set aside a part of the day for interaction with the purpose of getting to know your children better—no electronics allowed.
One of the things the Scriptures have taught me is how much of Jesus’ life was spent listening and asking questions. In fact, those are the first two characteristics that we learn about Jesus in Luke 2, and He continued to listen and ask questions throughout His life.
Ask your children about their dreams and aspirations, ask about their difficulties, ask about their friends. My wife (who is one of the best mothers in the world) had both our sons teach her some of their interests. She learned to rap and to call out the entire roster of an NBA basketball team.
Although both my boys are now grown and married, they still test her on occasion to see if she remembers the words to a rap song or some basketball trivia. There is no better time to capture your child’s heart than those moments you have the child all to yourself.
Hot weather or not, make sure you surrender your summer to spend time with your family. Don’t be afraid to put away the stiff business suit and reach out. Play with your kids, talk to them and most of all, pray with them.
And please don’t tell them if they don’t settle down you’re going to pull the car over.
Walker Moore is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P.O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 800/AWESTAR (293-7827)