Taking a break
(Why vacation is a good thing)
I’m horrible at remembering who gave us gifts. But someone recently gave us this little countdown calendar we keep on our kitchen counter. It came with little, numbered blocks that can be arranged like a countdown from 99 to zero and the blocks sit above these little chalkboards listing special occasions like “vacation,” “Christmas,” “birthday.”The set also comes with a blank slate and chalk so we can create our own celebrations.
Since countdowns are big in our family, that thing is a hit! Our youngest is the self-appointed keeper of the countdown calendar and he updates it every morning at breakfast. There was no St. Patrick’s Day chalkboard thingy, so my oldest drew a shamrock on the blank one. Before that, it was Lincoln’s stovepipe hat for Presidents Day and a hand drawn heart for Valentine’s Day. It’s amazing how many things you can find to celebrate.
But vacation is the best!
This spring break we spent the week at my in-laws’ lake house at Lake Barkley. The best thing about going to the lake is there’s no internet. So we disconnect for the week. On top of that, we don’t take devices with us, which forces us to, you know, look at each other and have actual conversations and play family games instead of zoning out on devices.
We did allow the boys to each pick out some movies from the library because that’s something we could enjoy together instead of one kid on the iPad in this corner and the other on the computer over there or whatever.
And you know what? They didn’t even complain too much about disconnecting for a week. It forced them to be creative and come up with their own entertainment. Like “mountain climbing” on the enormous root ball of an overturned tree. Or finding rocks and shining them up like gems. I also took them fishing and we played at the city park a few times.
There was a scraped nose, and a bruised knee, but those only turned into memories and adventurous stories to tell at dinner.
Personally, my favorite memory of the week was re-stringing my grandad’s fishing poles with my oldest boy on the front porch. He woke me up at 6am to go fishing, which took me back to those days when I was his age and my grandad used to wake me up early to go fishing in the summertime. It was a full-circle kind of memory.
The only problem with fishing at 6am is that we hadn’t bought bait yet, but there was an easy solution to that: digging our own worms.
Like life, a good vacation is never perfect. There were some timeouts given for tussles here and there. And I may have lost my cool a time or two. As I’m sure you’ve experienced yourself, unexpected circumstances came up during our vacation like they always do in regular life.
But in the end, the things we remember Monday morning back at school or work are not the things that didn’t work out right in the moment; they’re the things that really count.
What will our boys remember from the week? Hopefully spending hours playing together on the dirt pile, dreaming of being treasure hunters – not the extra long time it took to get them clean that night or the permanently stained brown socks. Hopefully they’ll remember spending time together on the dock fishing – not the fact that we didn’t get a single bite and it only lasted 30 minutes before they got bored.
From my perspective, I will remember the scrapbook-worthy picture I captured in my mind of both boys with their fishing poles in the water with the sun glistening on the lake, a breeze on our faces, and geese in the sky overhead.
Those little spontaneous moments are the best part of vacations. They are the memories that last. And that’s just as true whether it’s a “staycation” like we took this time or a lavishly expensive trip like we’ve taken other times.
It’s laughter during a family board game that seldom happens on a school night. It’s staying up late. It’s doing whatever we want because we have nowhere to be. Or sleeping in. Or waking up early and making a donut run.
It’s the moments that seem so insignificant until you look back on them, smile all over again, and restart the countdown until the next vacation.
Those priceless moments are the value of getting away, breaking the routine, and unplugging to make new memories together.
At the time of this writing, our countdown calendar has already been reset to Easter. Next will be a cousin’s birthday party. Then a campout. Then the last day of school. And the countdown to making more priceless memories continues.