This last week we spent 4 days camping in a Camper Cabin at a Minnesota State Park. It was probably the cheapest vacation we've ever taken as a family (about $300 - $350 total after buying some supplies, paying for the cabin and park permit, buying food and stocking up on things like sunscreen) and it was probably the best vacation we've ever had as a family. I'll write more about that on Wednesday in "Work, Home and Family", so here I'm going to talk about the biggest benefit of that camping trip... Family Time.
I love spending time with my husband and children! The problem right now is that with both John and I in school and getting ready to start this new job and all the other things we do, it seems like we're always bound by some sort of schedule - off to school, homework to do, chores to complete, etc. We very, very rarely have time where we can just hang out together.
Oh, don't get me wrong, we can and do take time to just hang out, or play a pickup game of soccer, or ring-around-the-rosy, or cuddle on the couch and read books, or watch a DVD with a big bowl of popcorn. But there's always something waiting that needs to be completed when that time is done. A few hours at a shot without something else to do or a place to be is all we can manage.
We do lengthen and expand the time that we spend together by including the kids in housework and yard work and things like making dinner or birthday presents for others or in cleaning out or whatever. But that's still, well, work. Yes, I do believe that it's important to teach my children how to do all those things. Are they learning? Yes. Do I love that? Yes. But it's not big chunks of undivided time just exploring the world and spending time together.
This last week we got to do plenty of both. We hiked about 5 miles per day, saw deer, many types of birds, several tree frogs and even a raccoon! We spent several hours swimming, building sandcastles, skipping rocks, and throwing rocks and sticks into the water at a nature-made beach on a wide stretch of river. We sang songs around a campfire. We took naps. We put together a puzzle and played checkers while the rain drummed on the roof. We cuddled and talked and just plain sat silent watching flames in a campfire.
There was no agenda, no other place to be, no chores or homework to be done (well, ok, a few necessary chores like making meals and cleaning up from them but that was about it). We just got to be together.
I realized that we need more of that in our daily time together too. Time to just be. Not worry about the next thing or what is getting done or not. Time to make pictures in the clouds. Time to comment on the variety of plants in our backyard and our neighborhood park. Time to pick a bouquet of wildflowers. Time to play checkers and put together a puzzle. Time to stare into a fire with your family in comfortable silence with you.
We forget that we need to make and take time to build relationships with each other. Taking time to just be together is so important, and yet it's the first thing to go in our busy lives today.
Truly, the no agenda family time we had this last week is one of my favorite things!