It is summer vacation and I believe recipes for home cooking are best when kept simple and quick. A happy vacation is similarly about keeping expectations reasonable and giving with a full heart. Are you spending too much time giving to your family, sacrificing in the kitchen or on your vacation, and yet your kids are driving you crazy? We have all been there. How do we find balance without breaking the bank, only eating takeout, or sacrificing a child’s well-being?
This may seem extreme so be prepared to agree wholeheartedly or disagree loudly. Don’t make summer vacation about how you can do as many activities as possible, spending as much quality time as possible, making the most of your vacation days as possible. The pressure is not conducive to success. This is because the more our kids get, and the more they are our complete focus, then the less gratitude they feel and the less connected to us they feel. It is the same when we spend hours on a single dish or a recipe with too many steps and ingredients, the response is almost never worthy of the effort on a regular basis.
I know this seems counter intuitive to working moms and dads like us. We want to go the beach and the pool and get a Popsicle, have a nice dinner game night and smooth bedtime all in the same day. In fact, we want idyllic summer fun every day, and we are willing to sacrifice to achieve it. So why is hard work not enough?
The most successful long-term plan for summer fun that everyone enjoys before, during and after the event, is when there is a single special focus to the day. It can be a game night, or the pool, or the special extended family meal. Make one thing the centerpiece and if other things work out, then great.
For example, on game night, it is cool for our kids to make a date with a friend, or color at home, or use the pool membership with or without me, in a very casual way. No new toys or games, just simple fun. Then, if I am tired or busy with chores or housework, they can help. This way, we are ready for the event of the day, the game night. This works best if you hold back from making game night all about the million snacks as well. One is enough; the game is the focus. You can apply this to a special pool day, when you bring a ball and teach them a new game. Then the dinner or family movie that may or may not happen is organic and based on your attention, time and emotional availability.
Why is holding back the best way to bring your kids closer? Why is giving with a full heart what you give, without expectations of perfect behavior, gratitude and obedience more productive to getting those things? I am asking a great psychotherapist these questions and I can’t wait to bring you her perspective next week.
What do you find creates the greatest and deepest bond with your kids? When you schedule a full fun packed adventure or on the simplest activities where you are not over extended or over spending?