Spring is here and it’s that time of year again. Yes, it’s the time of year when the flowers are starting to bloom, the baby calves are arriving on farms all across our state (Iowa), and my kids are playing outside for as much of the day as they are allowed. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m referring to the time of year when we start to plan our summer vacation.

The kids have started to ask, “Where are we going on vacation this year?” There is lots of discussion at supper about where we should go. This year the kids are rooting for Colorado (to see a beloved pen pal), Michigan (to see “that big ocean there”, again), or perhaps to South Dakota (to see “that mountain with the president guys on it”).

I have come to really enjoy planning and taking family vacations, but it didn’t used to be that way. I used to cringe when I thought about all of the packing and planning that I needed to do. Then, once we’d finally get on our way, I’d resent all of the discipline I doled out and self-control I needed to survive the car trip. And I’d usually end up feeling disappointed during the vacation because I just wasn’t getting much rest or much of a vacation for myself. (When I actually type out those feeling, I realize I can really be so selfish!)

But a few years ago, when talking about all of this with my husband, we came to the conclusion that we were really looking at the family vacation from the wrong angle. Instead of expecting it to be a vacation for ourselves (i.e. “a time of rest and relaxation”) we needed to start seeing it as a service project that we were doing for our kids. We decided that the goals of summer vacations were basically to:

  1. Allow our kids to experience and learn about new places around our wonderful nation.
  2. Learn how to cooperate/function peacefully as a family in new situations.
  3. Make loving and fun memories with the kids that they can treasure for a lifetime.

Notice that no where in the goals were things like “get some extra rest, work less, take a break, etc.”

And you know what? Once I changed my mindset and didn’t have the expectation that it was a break for me, I started to have more fun. I was more at peace because I didn’t have faulty expectations. My attitude was so much better because I started to remember that at this point in our lives, a family vacation is service project that we do for our kids.

It is a true joy when I hear my kids say such as, “Remember that cherry pie we had on vacation last year? That was the best!” or “Remember the gondola trip we took in the Rocky Mountains. It was so scary and exciting!” I feel so happy because I know that these family vacations are worth all of the effort.

Annie Boyd

Annie Boyd was raised on a farm in Iowa. She graduated from The University of Northwestern in St. Paul with a degree in elementary education. She is married to her high school sweetheart, and they have five children. She loves being a stay-at-home mom and homeschooling her kids. She blogs with her family over at http://www.theginghamapron.com/