Dear Hobie & Monk,
My wife and I did not travel much when we were growing up, and one thing we’ve really enjoyed is giving our daughters the opportunity to see more of the world during wonderful family vacations. Last week, as we were all relaxing with the grandparents at their beach house during a very low-key family celebration, our youngest asked where we were going for our big summer trip. I replied that being at the beach was our summer vacation this year. She wasn’t disappointed exactly, but definitely was surprised. What are your thoughts about balancing the special opportunities we can provide our family while still keeping them grounded and appreciative of our more “regular” — and still very blessed — life?
– Too well-traveled
Monk: I love your question, and not just because it reminds me of the time our young daughters, invited to pre-board the plane, parked themselves in first class, put their feet up and their tray tables down, before we could redirect them to our lavatory-zone seats in the rear. (Not so fast, baby divas!) I love your question because it’s my question, one I suspect we share with many metropolitan moms and dads trying to balance the privileges and opportunities associated with having means (to travel, for example) with enduring character traits like gratitude and contentment.
In your case, the family vacation question offers an excellent opportunity to address the issue of balance in a real way with the whole family. The next time you’re all together, ask your wife and girls to recall favorite vacation memories (and share yours). This will spark, I hope, a robust and animated conversation.
Note that the most endearing and memorable moments are not always the grandest. While posh and exotic can be awesome, simple and shared are special too. Ask your girls to help you plan the next vacation (and the one after that), emphasizing the elements that have made previous trips memorable. With a bit of luck, you can get everyone in on the balancing act.
Hobie: There’s showing — and there’s telling.
In terms of telling: Like Monk, I’m a big fan of family conversations, especially when opportunities arise naturally (like it did with your daughter) to talk about what you value and enjoy, and how that is reflected in the choices you make about family activities like vacations. But there is magic in showing.
If you also want your children to find delight in smaller moments, make sure they see you finding joy in life’s everyday gifts. If you want them to see the rewards of responsibility, give them a front row seat to working, saving and planning. If you want them to find grace in relationships, faith and the more immediate world right outside their front door, get out your own compass and start exploring.
You want to give your children the world during those two weeks each year — but remember that they’re taking in so much more from you during the other 50.
Hobie and Monk are two Alexandria women with husbands, children, dogs, jobs, mortgages, unmet New Year’s resolutions, obsessions with impractical shoes, English novels … and Ph.D.s in clinical psychology. Their advice, while fabulous, should not be construed as therapeutic within a doctor-patient context or substituted for the advice of readers’ personal advisors.