All the planning with the hope of creating wonderful vacation memories may be for naught. Many times the memories made on vacation with your children are not what you think they will be.
Recently I asked my son what he recalled from our trip to Disney World over two decades ago. He recounted how scared he was and his swift exit from an entry room before the group walked into the Haunted Mansion. In considerable detail, he and I laughed about the secret, behind the scenes escape we made with a Disney cast member’s help. This wasn’t the memory I had hoped he would take away when putting together our trip.
Then I wondered about what my sister-in-law and her children remembered from another Disney World excursion. I vividly recall standing outside Space Mountain and her asking me in an accusatory tone, “How can you let that little boy (my nephew) go home and have to tell his friends he didn’t go on Space Mountain?” She applied ample pressure and a serious amount of guilt until my nephew and I were in line. She, herself, had no intention of experiencing Space Mountain. Today she has no recollection of the conversation or the guilt trip she used on my psyche. What she remembers is her son being totally obnoxious—walking into walls and being unruly. Happily, he remembers our Space Mountain ride.
These stories highlight several truths about making memories:
- You have no idea what will stick as a memory.
- No two people remember events in exactly same way.
- Events you may consider insignificant or unimportant can become the overriding recollection.
- In time, many upsetting experiences become humorous and part of family lore.
- No amount of planning guarantees that you can engineer the memories your children will hold dear.
Vacations: Much more than a splash in the water
You may not think you need or have time for a vacation, but it is especially important in our very stressful and pressured environment. Most of us live our lives at a hectic pace with family members often going in different directions at a fast clip. More than ever, vacations become essential for bringing everyone together without the distractions of crammed lives—children’s schedules crowded with practices, games, and homework and parents’ struggling with work-life commitments. Spending time as a unit gives children a sense of security and belonging in a relaxed atmosphere.
Vacations are also an opportunity to put the “child” back in “childhood.” According to Dan Lazar, president of Chatter, Inc., a marketing research firm, the years between ages 5 and 13 are the prime time for creating memories. It is important, he notes, to take trips during which parents and children can participate in and enjoy the activities together. To that end, turn off the electronic gadgets that keep you tethered to work so you can truly be present for your children. And, make sure you allow sufficient time to wind down and relax.
Memories create themselves
In an effort to be perfect parents we try to create perfect vacations; we obsess over the details and spend hours or months planning. Our goal is for everyone to have fun and come away with perfect recollections. The reality is that you can’t know in advance what will be memorable.
Whether an incident turns out to be recalled as a funny or fun experience or scary adventure, each vacation memory feeds your children’s memory banks with warm feelings of growing up and of you. When taken in total, they make a significant contribution to the rock bed of the relationship you want to have with them in the future.
Vacation memories feed parents’ memory banks as well and become an integral part of a shared family narrative. As children move into their teen years and beyond, the memories are all the more precious to parents who know that everything will change when their children become adults.
Please share your surprising family vacation memories in the comment section below.
Copyright 2012 by Susan Newman