For some people, family vacations conjure up images reminiscent of the popular 1980s movie starring Chevy Chase — Mom, Dad and kids riding less than comfortably in a car packed with bags and other belongings headed down the road toward one misadventure after another.
These experiences come with the territory — like the time I had to pull off the highway and rush into the back seat to free the head of one of our children from a plastic kids’ meal bucket lodged firmly in place after her failed attempt at making a fast food fashion statement.
We still laugh about that one. But ultimately more memorable for me are the “less panicked” times we spend together each year on summer vacations: talking in the car, seeing new sights and visiting with relatives and friends. They are an opportunity for our family to reconnect by disconnecting for a short time from work, school and the routines that keep us busy from the time we get up to the time we go to bed.
Time for rest
Pope Benedict XVI has spoken about the importance of summer vacations as a time to “rest from our daily labors.” Done right, he said, they can refresh everyone in body, mind and spirit.
We Minnesotans live in a state with a lot of natural beauty, but we still need an occasional reminder to take a break and recharge our batteries. Those of us who are not part of the boat-and-cabin culture have other opportunities available, especially in light of high gas prices and tight family budgets.
State parks, for example, offer affordable camping and hiking options. The Twin Cities are home to myriad museums, sights and cultural events that cater to parents and children. And, the summer Calendar section of The Catholic Spirit features parish festivals and other family friendly activities.
The pope reminds us that summer is also a time to be refreshed spiritually. Maybe that involves reading a faith-enriching book you haven’t had time to get to. Or an excursion to a rural church. Or even a mini-pilgrimage to the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis or Cathedral of St. Paul, which a few years ago was designated as the National Shrine of the Apostle Paul by the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Spending extra time together as a family this summer doesn’t require a trip to an expensive amusement park or distant car rides to far-flung tourist attractions. It does require us, however, to unplug as much as possible from our daily stresses, work schedules and smartphones.
Summertime is a good time to plan some downtime and create memories — some funny, like the bucket incident; others more heartwarming — that you and your family will appreciate for a long time to come.