We never vacation in January. Never. Kids are in school. We are broke from Christmas. And we are still in recovery mode from all the chaos that the holidays bring.
But this year we planned a trip to Mexico in January to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Said friend, however, got the rona right before the trip and ended up canceling, along with the other families that were going.
So we found ourselves in a predicament. To go or not to go?
We already had the time off, the kids were excited, the dog-sitter was in order, the excursions were booked, so after a lot of consideration, we decided to go anyway.
COVID had hit our family hard over the holidays so we were elated to get out and do something. The timing wasn’t great, though. I would have never planned a week long vacation during this time, but we decided to make the best out of the situation at hand.
And it was completely worth it.
Sometimes over the holidays, when most people feel the most connected to family, I begin to feel disconnected from my family. There is so much going on-the cooking, the shopping, the parties, the friends, the busyness of it all…that even though we are together, it isn’t necessarily quality time. I don’t really get a chance to connect and reflect on the unique experiences the year has brought each of the kids. In a sense, we are together but also separate.
But taking a vacation in January, after all the remnants of disorder, brought us together. It was a slowing down to really connect with one another. We sat at meals together, talking, laughing, sharing stories, and getting to know one another without having to worry about the cooking or the cleaning. We had a week to experience new things together. We played. We joked. I got to see the sense of humor in each of their personalities when I’m usually too irritated.
I didn’t have to sit in the car honking my horn for someone to hurry because we were going to be late. I didn’t have to yell at anyone to go to bed because there was school in the morning. I didn’t have to rush through dinner to ensure someone got to practice on time.
We got a time out to enjoy life as a family.
And isn’t that what life is all about? Slowing down to enjoy the small things. Finding pleasure in the company of those you love? Taking the time to really get to know one another, understand one another? And while we know this is what creates connection and togetherness, it seems like such a chore to make it happen, which is why many of us don’t do it and then look in on people who do as if they have it all together.
Really, it just takes a bit of effort. I was lucky enough to experience it by chance, but I will continue to make it a choice.
What I learned was this:
If we never take the time to slow down, we never give ourselves the chance to really feel the love that comes from being around those we love, especially the ones we see everyday.
I felt more connected and loved by those four people than I have in a long time.
Everyday life can be exhausting and hard and unforgiving. We owe it to ourselves to take time to see the beauty in the everyday by just being present. Fully present. And in order to be present, we have to be able to slow down.
As a mother, learning how to slow down has given me back ten fold what sacrifices I make in cultivating the habit. But slowing down has an effect on those around us as well. The benefits don’t stop at the self. Our children need us to slow down too. They need to have their parents not so distracted and busy to really see them. They need the space that avails itself in the quiet. The space to open up and talk and to be loved for all of them, not just our expectations.
When I was a kid, we took a 2-week vacation every year without fail. Nothing fancy. Just us as a family, a tent, a boat, and some fishing rods in some place with water. I wouldn’t say we connected as a family, but we were together. My mom was usually miserable while dad was designated the role of activities coordinator. And those activities…sometimes basic like just driving around exploring, sometimes odd like tying a surfboard to the boat, sometimes adventurous like catching Salmon off the coast of California and sometimes even dangerous like getting rescued by helicopters in Mexico…those activities created memories. Experiences. It was the only part of my childhood that I look back on with pure happiness. It created a space for memories to grow even when times were shitty.
So my advice to you is to go out and take a vacation. Go explore something new. Do something you’ve never done. Find the wonder in slowing down, in adventure, in exploration. Even when it feels impossible. Make it happen. Because your future self…and your kids…will always be grateful for the experience.