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The Free Little Summer Vacation Memories Are The Best
Written By: Mark Smith

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Through the years in my work as a therapist I have always been struck by powerful impact of family vacation memories. Even the most dysfunctional of families usually have warm, funny stories to tell about that trip to the Grand Canyon or those long summer days at the family lake cabin. I look at the money spent on such trips to be a wise investment in the hearts and memories of my children.

As fate would have it, my family just returned from a short vacation trip that we were able to shoehorn into 4 days unspoken for by my kidsí increasingly busy schedules. The following is some observations about some of the magical moments that we enjoyed along the way.

After a wonderful Chinese dinner we found ourselves hanging out at the South Bend Chocolate Shop in St. Joseph, MI. After a delicious, humongous $7.50 banana split and lots of chocolate we settled in for a spirited game of Chinese checkers of all things Ė a thrill a minute that Smith bunch. A talented mid-aged fellow was playing Dan Fogelberg songs as we played together as a family. It was a relaxed and connected family time with nary a complaint from any corner. When you have 3 teenagers in the family those are rare and special moments indeed.

Ok, back to reality. There were some bumps and bruises along the road as well. We stayed in hotel rooms and my kids informed me that I snore like a freight train. Precious moments of sleep were lost resulting in at least one especially grumpy daughter for the duration of the trip. My snoring was definitely deemed some sort of moral failure on my part. We also had a pretty disastrous dining experience. We mistakenly settled upon a cute little Greek restaurant because the wait at the hot spots were too long. The service was terrible, the bill astronomical and the food was sparse and extremely bad. But you know, years from now Iíll bet we talk about how bad of an experience that was. It became a family vacation memory that weíll laugh about.

We paid for some neat experiences Ė a Kansas concert in St. Joseph and the Broadway play Wicked in Chicago. Everybody I know has absolutely raved about Wicked and it certainly was good, but our bunch was so tired that Iím ashamed to say that we all kept nodding off. You canít really plan or buy great memories Ė they just have to happen. Many times the very best family memories are absolutely free. My wife and I had a very long intimate walk on the pier and we oohed and awed to the very best fireworks show that we had ever seen. The new high tech hanging crystal fireworks blew us away. We were all intrigued by both the gorilla and the rhino in the free Lincoln park zoo. Who knows Ė that might be our last trip to a zoo as a family.

You certainly pay for vacations in many ways before, during and after you return. Many times you return needing a vacation to recover from your vacation. They are worth every penny and every bit of the hassle of packing, unpacking, traveling and having to catch up on your work. I feel closer to my kids today then I did before we left. I didnít have to compete with my kidsí friends for their attention. They were trapped in the van or in our little hotel room. We laughed, we argued, we told old stories and we just enjoyed each other. Travel gives us a break from the mundane and it makes us spend much needed quality time together.

If you havenít fit your summer family vacation in yet there is still time. You donít have to book a cruise or fly off to see Mickey Mouse. You donít have to spend a ton of money. Borrow a tent and go camping. Kids love to camp. The important thing is that you have an adventure and you spend the time together. It is one of the very best benefits to being in a family. Things will go wrong Ė count on that. You will no doubt feel out of control. But there will be simple, magical moments that are priceless if you just pay attention to them. Have a great trip and give your kids a hug. See you next week.

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This article was authored by Family Tree Counseling Associates, a marriage, individual and family counseling center serving the Indianapolis, Carmel, Fishers, Westfield and Noblesville communities in Indiana. If you would like to contact us, please fill out a contact us form or call us at 317-844-2442.
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