Parenting with purpose: Holidays? Part 1

You’re on a campsite, late at night, miles from anywhere, after a particularly fractious journey. The eldest has just stormed off in a huff because of the lack of Wi-Fi. The 7 year-old can’t sleep because ‘it doesn’t smell right’ and the baby is inconsolable because, somehow, despite loading the car with everything you own, ‘sleep bunny’ is nowhere to be found.

Welcome to your family holiday! ‘Family’ & ‘holiday’ – do they even belong together?

How can I possibly have a real holiday unless I leave my family behind?! Parenting is 24/7 with no days off. What does rest look like when your work is in your face (or clinging to your legs), constantly wanting an ice-cream/story/game of footie/lift to a mate’s house ….? (delete as applicable)

What do we mean by ‘holiday’ anyway?

For some it’s time physically away from home (doing all the usual work, in less well-equipped surroundings) For others, it’s the change – either a welcome relief from school runs, homework and after-school activities, or a chaotic loss of routine accompanied by the disappearance of the friends and groups that usually keep us sane. For the full-time-working parent it’s a rare opportunity to spend extended time with our children. For some it’s the painful reality that the budget allows no respite from work, and no treats for the kids, whilst ‘eveyone else’ is enjoying themselves (See Part 2, next week, for particular help with this). For most of us, our dreams of ‘holiday’ are frustrated by the (re-)discovery that spending 24 hours a day with the people we love most is often not the relaxing experience we want it to be!

So, at the start of this summer, how can we put ‘family’ and ‘holiday’ together in a way that that works?

Firstly, we need a right perspective. Whatever the holiday ads tell us, genuine rest is not found lying by a pool, doing nothing, in peace and quiet whilst other people serve us. Jesus tells us “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Coming to Jesus doesn’t mean an end to our work – there is still a ‘yoke’ to shoulder. But it does enable us to find real, eternal, deep-seated rest for our souls. Rest that enables us to persevere in lovingly teaching, caring for, disciplining and serving our children, who he has entrusted to us. And – wonderfully – this rest is available to all who come to him: term-time or holidays, at home or away, on a big-budget or a shoestring, whether our ‘holiday’ is an 8 week stretch or a single weekend. Whatever our holiday looks like, what we – and our children – need most, it to come to Jesus, both in focussed time spent with him, and in living out our relationship with him 24/7.

Secondly, we need to make some realistic plans: • How will we prioritise time with Jesus when our usual routines change? Can we maintain an existing good pattern? Start something new? Mix things up a bit where we’ve grown stale? More help on that coming in a future post, but in the meantime, ask other families in your church what they do, and adapt to fit your particular family situation.

• How can we satisfy every family member, each with their own particular ideas of what a good holiday involves? (See here for some practical help on family-decision making about activities

• How can we make the holidays feel different from ‘ordinary’ days, even when we are at home? Ditching the non-essential jobs may help a full-time-at-home parent feel that they are having at least a bit of a break. Try introducing simple, fun, unusual activities e.g. eat outside more, hold theme days (pick a colour/number/country and play games/eat food/dress accordingly). Join forces with other families to play their games/read their books/watch their DVDs for a change.

• Enjoy your family holiday in a way that promotes harmony, happiness and godliness in your family. If everyone hates the time-constraints of term, then ditch the clock for the holidays. But if your children thrive on predictability and routine, keep things consistent. Gather ideas for holiday activities from everywhere and anywhere, remembering that there’s no good reason to do what makes you (or your children) fed up just because it’s some other family’s all-time favourite holiday activity!

In their best moments, family holidays can be fun, relaxing, God-honouring celebrations of our loving Heavenly Father’s goodness to us. In their worst moments, they remind us all of our need for a forgiving saviour who guarantees us everlasting rest, better than anything we have yet experienced.

Happy holidays! Cathy Dalton

Leave a comment