Originally written for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine on Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Our family has never been one to take trips to the beach or go to Europe over spring break like some people I know do. Nor do we take grand vacations to the mountains to ski in the winter or to Mexico in the summer. In fact I down-right hate to travel. My parents did it with me a lot as a child and I just don’t have very many fond memories of it, but I know some people that LIVE for vacations. I have often wondered, has that left my kids out of something? Are they missing something because I can’t provide all that? We “might” take a trip back South, where my husband is from, one time a year and if we do we try to make it as educational as possible but I still wonder, have I been a bad mother for not being able to provide all those things?
I think I have slowly gotten my answer as my kids have grown up. Now 25, 15 and 13, I often hear the two left at home say, ” What???” in a high pitched, urgency filled voice as if we have just been invaded by aliens, “We can’t go anywhere on Friday night, we will miss hamburger night!!!” Typically, we make homemade hamburgers and French-fries every Friday night, and then we watch a movie we have either picked up at the Library, Red box, or Netflix. I have learned, over time, my kids LOVE our family night and it actually has to be rescheduled if we have something that comes up on a Friday that can’t be avoided.
Another thing that made me think was during our local spring break when our daughter house-sat for friends of ours. As an added treat she wanted to make them dinner so they would have something to eat when they came home. When she looked in their refrigerator, she called me, excited, to say she had found the supplies to make enchiladas. So she did, but she called me in the middle of it and said, disappointingly, “Making enchiladas is not as much fun by myself as it is at home”. You see, at home it is a major event at our house. There are several steps to my recipe and all of our family comes into the kitchen and takes part in the event! Everyone has a job and we enjoying working together doing it. But it was obvious Amy realized it was not the same by herself, and most of what she liked was the interaction our family has during the process.
And then, there was the trip to the coast. I know I told you I had an aversion to travel. But this was important! When Katrina hit, that was a bit too close to home to ignore (remember I told you my husband’s family is from that area). So in a matter of hours, with just a few e-mails sent out, we had a borrowed van and trailer, had donations of thousands of pounds of food/supplies and hundreds of dollars for the trip and we were off to deliver supplies from just the people in our community who were willing to reach out. My kids still talk about that trip and the displaced family we met in a hotel coming back home who needed diapers and food that we were able to assist with.
Still to this day, when we travel to the next town over, my kids reminisce about the days when they were younger and each Friday was our day out. Grocery Shopping (our town doesn’t have a grocery store), errands, and oh YES! the Library Story Time. These are all memories they still treasure. Yes, even the part where I banned them for saying the words on that day, ” Can I have….”, or ” I want….” (a mom can only take so much begging).
Then there was the hail storm, when, in the middle of replacing the roof, I got the bright idea of removing all the ugly siding off our house and restoring the original wood underneath. (Well we had the dumpster here anyway, we might as well, right? ) It didn’t matter if our youngest was only six years old at the time; he was short, he could pull out the nails on the lower half of the house! We worked by height: what job you did depended on how tall you were. No one told me we would have to go around the perimeter of our house six times, performing six different steps to restore our house back to its original form! But it was worth it and a proud moment for all of us when it was over, realizing that as a part of this “team” we had accomplished a lot.
I still find it funny when my kids go to another child’s home and realize all the differences they find in other families. On many occasions it has made them thankful for what they have here. It is like music to a Momma’s ears when she hears the teenagers in her life say, “I know I have it good here” or “I know my parents are the best”.
Maybe you as a parent feel as if you were raised in a dysfunctional home and you have a fear of raising your kids in the same manner. As Patty Clairmore says, “Normal is just a setting on your dryer”. I believe if we love our kids and follow the biblical example of how God says we should treat each other (you know those rules apply inside the house not just around non-family members), when our kids are taught to look outside themselves and serve others, there is a spirit of unity and love that transcends all obstacles in a families relationships.
I love what I heard on a recent episode of Parenthood. The oldest brother was so angry at his younger sibling, he was refusing to have anything to do with him (and for a good cause), when his sister says ” I know you’re angry and you have every reason to be, but because he is your brother you don’t get that luxury.” I thought those were powerful words that spoke of a sense of unity.
Yes, my kids may not have all the luxuries of the Trumps, or even take the vacations like the neighbors down the street. But we have each other and in that we have learned the concept of team spirit, Godly attitudes, unity, and what I believe a real family is all about. And I think that just proves, “the little things really do count!”