As we enter the mid-winter break, it would be worthwhile to contemplate what makes a successful vacation. If you are like most parents who need to work (and find yourself actually feeling a tinge of jealousy for teachers) this coming week, the upcoming days may be even more terrifying than Erev Pesach!
Let’s focus on the potential benefits that can accrue from a vacation:
1. Children (and parents) get a needed break from sometimes stressful daily routines
2. Families have the opportunity to bond – either on a vacation or ‘staycation’
3. Enrichment opportunities abound – meeting new people, visiting cultural or recreational sites and engaging in really fun activities.
What are some potential negatives?
1 Greater stress from no routine – boredom
2. Family members getting on each other’s nerves
3. Not agreeing on where to go or what to do. Not being organized enough to actually get anywhere.
Now that it’s clear that a successful vacation depends on how we plan for it, here are some suggestions:
A. Lower expectations – not everything has to be perfect. There’s a place waiting for us after 120 years that can provide that. Each day should have something that is enjoyable and a change of pace. It can be for one hour. The rest of the day can be for relaxing, helping and exploring a (new or old) hobby or two. Guide your children in advance in this way of thinking.
B. Resolve to yourself, that no matter what, you will remain calm and cheerful. The day’s activities may score a ten, or hover near zero – but if you’ve kept your cool, the day was an unqualified success!
C. Whatever you plan, it must be something geared to the children. If your day is visiting an elderly aunt in a retirement condo, make sure to reserve a fun activity or trip to a restaurant etc. on your return trip. We believe in honoring our elders – but our children are not Bikur Cholim robots. They will do their part, if you do yours.
D. Appreciate the value of small gestures. Taking out one child each night to share an ice cream exclusively with you, will be very meaningful to each one, from age 4 to 44.
E. If going more than an hour from home, make sure to think through; drinks, food (snacks and meals), bathrooms, activities in car, general timing to avoid crankiness.
We all know that relaxing successfully is hard work. By ‘beginning with the end in mind’ we can enjoy a memorable, rejuvenating week, whether we’re stuck at work, stuck at home, stuck in-between. ‘Stuck’ is an attitude that can be overcome. Getting ‘unstuck’ requires some motivation and energy – and the saving grace is – if we’re less than successful, we’ll appreciate weeknights with homework that much more…
Have a revitalizing Shabbos and a most relaxing week!
Rabbi Kalman Baumann