Parenting with Purpose: Holidays? Part 2

Holiday envy is like every other kind of envy - kitchen envy, career envy, wardrobe envy - only it tends to be particularly acute during the summer months when “everyone” is having an amazing holiday – apart from you. In part 1 we acknowledged that no parent is ever entirely ‘off duty’ but for some parents ‘holiday’ of any kind feels totally out of reach. What do you do if money is so tight that there’s no possibility of going away? Perhaps you can’t even take time off work to be with your child at home. These things can be made harder by seeing ‘everyone else’ going away, enjoying what you don’t have.

One mum in this situation (let’s call her Suzy) says “It’s really hard. I feel like I am failing my son. It’s hard hearing about everyone else’s fun days out and trips away and I think people don’t understand.” At the moment her pre-school son loves the adventures of a bus ride and a trip to the park and doesn’t feel that he is missing out. But she fears for the future, when he starts to compare his holiday activities with his friends'.

If this is your situation, what would it help to remember?

• You are not failing your child. In Christ our children are blessed with a relationship with God now, and an eternally secure future in heaven, which far outweigh anything that even the richest parent could provide.

• God is not disappointed in us for not doing things that he hasn’t made it possible for us to do. Ask him to help you and your family value things as he does, rather than according to the world’s ideas of success. • God is at work in us all - the lack of a family holiday will not stop our heavenly father completing his good work in your children’s lives or yours.

• Holidays are not a universal right. Around the world and throughout history only a tiny minority of people have ever enjoyed this blessing.

• We have much to be thankful for - ask God to give you eyes to see what you have, rather than what you don’t. Many things that are easily accessible to us in the UK are considered luxurious by others - a family returning to England from overseas recently observed that safe and free playgrounds, parks, museums, and even pavements were a source of wonder for their kids!

• We can include others – play dates and joint outings makes the ordinary fun. Look beyond your own situation to see others for whom the summer is a difficult time. Perhaps an elderly friend or neighbour is lonely, or a single person whose life goes suddenly quiet when others go away. Might they like to be an honorary grandparent/aunt/uncle/older sibling? As Christian friends, how can we be sensitive to those in this situation? What practical help could we offer?

• Hand-me-down clothes, bikes, scooters, games, books & DVDs are practically helpful for those on tight budgets and can make the holiday season feel more exciting.

• Join together with other families to plan low cost or free outings – can you pool your discount vouchers or 2-for-1 offers so that another family can join you cheaply?

• Share food - keeping everyone fed over summer can be tough, especially with no free school meals. Can you arrange a playdate in the park and take a picnic big enough to share? Or as a church plan an activity where food is provided?

• Plan adventures – find out about free activities nearby that you can recommend to others; museums, playgrounds, a walk in the woods. Do you have camping gear or a holiday home that you could lend to another family so they can enjoy a new adventure?

• Swap houses – If you are going away, is there a family in your church who would love to house-sit for you (e.g. if you have a garden and they don’t)?

• Be careful - as we talk about our own holidays and as we post on social media. We don’t have to feel guilty about the good things we enjoy, but we should speak as thankful recipients of a good gift, not dissatisfied grumblers who expected better. If we speak or pray from the front in church services, or as we chat over coffee, avoid implying that everyone goes away over the summer.

• Be generous - Is your church able to provide financial help so that a family on a low income can have a night or two away or a special summer activity?

Suzy reflects “We can all have a ‘the grass is greener on the other side’ mentality about most things - kitchen envy, house envy, not just holidays. But you miss precious moments if you’re focusing on what you don’t have!! It’s not really about where you go but spending time together as a family if you can.”

Cathy Dalton

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