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VACATIONS:FAMILY BONDING EXPERIENCE OR DISASTER?

Have you ever felt like the perfect family vacation you planned was anything but?  Do you feel like you spend so much time and effort planning a vacation that will create perfect family bonding memories only to find that the memories consist of sibling rivalry and all the things that went wrong?

Do you have memories of great family vacations?  Were they perfect?  Do you remember the vacation flops as disasters or as funny stories that your family likes to reflect on, remember when…………?

The pressure of hopes and expectations plus the heavy investment of money, the energy to plan, and the unaccustomed time together without a break can definitely be a recipe for some very strained moments amongst what we would hope would also be a positive experience.

Family vacations are important for creating lasting memories and building family bonds especially in these times that can sometimes feel like we are living disconnected lives. Too often family members are together in the same room, on their individual devices connecting with other people instead of each other. Family vacations are an opportunity for family to be together without outside commitments.

We asked some of Kav L’Noar’s staff, friends and supporters to share some of their family vacation stories and tips on creating family memories.

TURNING KVETCHING INTO FAMILY BONDING

“I went on a hike with my husband and kids. It was very hot and my 2 youngest were kvetchy the whole time.  On the way back they were basically refusing to walk any further!  I spoke to them about all possibilities, such as arranging to have a cab pick us up at the closest possible entrance to the hike. It would spare us 20 minutes more of walking in the heat. I began walking and singing happily, “לא עליך המלאכה לגמר” as we slowly did our best to walk to the entrance without any demonstrations! The kids eventually joined in and we sing this song together until today!! with fond memories.

My advice with this in mind is that as a parent as hot and grumpy as we ourselves may be should put on our best mood because that is what influences everyone else’s moods and keep in mind that the annoying parts of our vacations make for the best stories to tell in our family’s future collective memories!!”  Anonymous Mom

The air conditioning was not working well in the kibbutz rooms we booked. We woke up hot and grouchy and rushed to get our 5 kids aged 3- 18 into the van.  We planned an easy hike, not too far from the parking area, mostly walking in shade and through water.  Halfway there we realized that the 3 year old left his shoes in the room. Too late to turn back.  10 more minutes on the road and we were almost there. AND then the van dies.   The good news- we are right in front of a gas station and they can fix the car, however it will take about 2 hours.  What now?  We take a look around and see – Mei Eden Factory is a 5 minute walk away.  So quick change of plans- The 18 year old puts the 3 year old (with no shoes) on his shoulders and they all went to take a tour of the factory.  Then we all ate ice cream together in the gas station. That is the part of the trip we all remember best!        Anonymous Mom

WHEN SPOUSES HAVE DIFFERENT IDEAS ABOUT VACATIONS

 Planning a family outing has always been a bit of a challenge, as my husband and I have very different tastes and priorities. One time, I managed to get the whole family to go on an outing at the Tel Aviv Museum. My son was then very interested in arts, studying the great painters, and even painting himself.  The first half hour was amazing, with my son identifying many of the artists just by looking at their styles.  But then we reached the “modern art” section of the museum.  All of a sudden, I hear my husband laughing, as he is looking at a statue with a sexual connotation. Needless to say, the kids joined him (then a 9-year-old, a 14-year-old and a 17-year-old)… It all went downhill from there, and there was not much I could do except to suggest we cut the trip short and head out for some dinner.

When my oldest kids were little, I suggested a trip to the Science Museum in Rehovot – an amazing interactive place.  My husband was skeptical, as he is not a museum-oriented person (“when I was little, my dad took us on a trip in Europe where we visited every single museum. I am done with museums.”) However, the kids very quickly got engaged, and were having a great time, learning and playing.  Husband’s patience ran out after 45 mins, when he looked at his watch, and asked, “Who wants to go out for an ice cream?” Needless to say, that was the end of it.

Conclusion for both stories: The main challenge in planning a ‘family trip’ is to find a place and/or activity that fits all family members.  It’s hard enough to engage in something that will interest a 5-year-old, a 10-year-old, and a 15-year-old, but when the parents cannot agree, it gets even more challenging.  However, over the years, we have learned to compromise and we take whatever we can, just to spend some family time.  So a visit to a kids’ exhibition at Beit Hatfutsot will involve husband taking a few short naps in a corner, and a culinary tour of Mahane Yehuda means I will have to spend some time at the Beer Market to satisfy my husband’s interests.  But all in all, we have a good time, and we get to spend a bit of time together, which doesn’t happen a lot.       Anonymous Mom

My husband and I have different styles. My idea of a nice vacation is lying around on a beach, or in a cool hotel somewhere, or seeing amazing sites but not with too much hiking involved. His idea of a vacation is hiking and walking as much as possible. On the other hand, I have a tendency (if we’re already site-seeing) to fit in as much as possible, and his philosophy is to take it slow, get up whenever, and mainly enjoy the trip. I’ve learned over time that his way (not rushing to get out the door at 7 AM) is a good idea. It is a calmer way to live, even if we miss a lake or two. And most important, since we’re talking FAMILY vacations, it’s easier on the children, who just want to have fun and spend quality time with the family.

We also are very open to spontaneity. We’ll change course in the middle and go off to see things we hadn’t anticipated, and we love talking to the people we meet. We enjoy learning the stories of their lives; they make up the human landscape, which is just as fascinating as the physical landscape. Also, perhaps due to my experience as a journalist, I’m always curious about why someone ended up living in a certain location. I see stories everywhere I go.

The one summer, more than 30 years ago, that we planned a vacation of about five days in which we met up with a couple we know who were temporarily living in the western U.S. (we were in the U.S. for the whole summer, with my parents’ home as our base), it was not real successful. They were the type who rose at the crack of dawn and enjoyed being on a strict schedule, to accomplish as much as possible. We were more fluid in our approach, but we tried our best to adapt to them. Even though they were (and still are) good friends of ours, it taught us that from then onwards, we should take family vacations alone.

Our children (and we) have wonderful memories of our laissez-faire family trips and adventures, where we’d let our imaginations lead us as much as the maps on our laps. And some of our best stories are, unsurprisingly, about the people. The Amish who got so excited to meet a family from the Holy Land. The blind rabbi in Lexington, Kentucky who loaned my husband a pair of tefillin (he thought I had packed them), and who was so thrilled to have an Israeli be the tenth man for the minyan and read the Torah. (It was a Monday morning; my husband’s been a ba’al koreh from the age of 13.) The phenomenal elderly Jewish woman in Peki’in, in northern Israel. The flea market of Jaffa. The night walk along the Tel Aviv coast. The new family members who joined our daughters, in marriage, who introduced us to the sand dunes of Gush Katif. And the night we slept across the road from them, in the home of friends who were gone for a few days, and a rocket fell outside our window.   But I prefer to remember not the occasional rocket, but the Katif seashore, the peaceful and eloquent backdrop for our eldest daughter’s chuppa. And the halcyon years that followed in that blessed fantasy world.     Ah yes. Summer adventures.   Toby Klein Greenwald

GENERATION GAP VACATIONS

Take Grandma for the Ride 

I have cherished memories of my grandmother accompanying my family on all of our vacations. She wasn’t taken along to be the babysitter for me and my two siblings while my parents had some time off.  Rather, she was such an integral part of our family unit that it would have felt strange had she not been with us.

These trips served as a lesson in responsibility, giving, love and respect for us kids.  We carefully escorted my grandmother as she navigated the new turf of whatever resort or country we visited. I learned to see life from the perspective of someone older and I absorbed priceless lessons by observing her behavior and approach to others outside of her regular home environment.

I clearly remember opting out of sunbathing and activities at the beach just so I could sit in the shade with my grandmother and listen to her reminiscing about all kinds of things.  Her stories weren’t always captivating, but her laughter was contagious and I felt the nachat she received from sharing vacation time and adventures with her children and grandchildren. There was a symbiotic lesson in gratitude for all of us.  That she knew she was a valued and treasured part of the family was palpable.                Ellen Horowitz

With very young grandchildren, we have paid a bit more than we used to when we go on vacation to make sure that if hiking doesn’t work out, we will have a place with beautiful grounds to have a pleasant time together. We are sure to rent a house with a pool, which of course is an added benefit.  After all, hiking or no hiking, for my husband and I the most important thing is just to be able to spend good quality time all together.    Anonymous Mom and Grandmother

BUDGET VACATIONS

I am one of 8 children who grew up on a budget.  We never went to any sleep over or day camps. We went to Queen Esther’s camp – Esther is my mom. My parents would enter a lottery and win one or two weeks at a cabin at a lake. The first summers of Queen Esther camp at a State Park was in a cabin with beds and a small kitchenette. We learned to camp, fish and ride a canoe. We spent the summer eating fresh corn on the cob and went apple picking.  In the beginning of our week together, we kids would bicker and fight. By the end we all enjoyed the day in the outdoors swimming and playing shesh besh on our porch in the evenings. As we got older, more independent, and had different interests Queen Esther’s camp purchased a pop-up-tent which slept 8 and we went on our first road trip up and down the East Coast. Again, by the end of the summer we were a family united once again. The summer before I started high school, Queen Esther’s camp hit the road to the West Coast, camping and seeing all the national parks along the way. The summer after our sabbatical year in Israel, we camped through Europe. Friends flew to Europe to join us on our grand adventure. Little did they know we now graduated to using two 10 person tents. The trips continued after I was married, and after my first son was born.  Queen Esther’s camp traveled to Alaska and Mexico. At this point others started to enjoy our camp as well. My brothers and sisters for the summer got a taste of camping as well. I have very strong bonds with these summer friends until today.  If you ask any of my siblings, we each will share different special memories of our travels.

As a mother of five grown children, we have shared and experienced many family adventures ourselves here in Israel. We have spent many summers in Eilat and in Tiberias. We have spent time camping in Mitzpe Rimon and in Chorshat Tal. All five kids complain and fight in the beginning as I had done with my siblings. But by the end of the vacations we spend time getting reacquainted with one another and become friends once again.

We are now planning and dreaming of a cross country trip in the USA to recreate what my parents gave to me that summer so many years ago. It will not be the same, but it will definitely be a new and grand adventure for Queen Esther’s Camp. I am keeping my mother’s legacy alive!!!           Anonymous Mom

VACATIONING WITH DIFFERENT KINDS OF KIDS

At least a few times a year, I try to invite all my children for Shabbat together. That sounds nice, but since each family keeps Shabbat in his own way (super light, Carlebach, yeshivish, very machmir), sometimes Shabbat is not the peaceful loving experience we’d wish.

So, every year I bring my very varied family together for a non-Shabbat vacation. The flash points are gone. The tension melts. Suddenly under the country-night-sky, everyone is more forgiving, more understanding. The clothing issues that plagued our home on Shabbat were non-existence in the mountains. The kashruth issues were never discussed since hotel breakfasts were simple, lunches were peanut butter or tuna and dinners were schnitzel that everyone would eat. Activities were another even-ing factor. Everyone loved kayaking, riding horses, undertaking all kinds of action rides.On vacation, we are really a family, a happy family.  Anonymous Mom and Grandmother

VACATIONS THAT ARE DICTATED BY OTHERS NEEDS AND EXPECTATIONS ARE NOT THE IDEAL FORMULA FOR A FAMILY BONDING EXPERIENCE.

 We went on vacation once outside of Israel, paid for by relatives and was therefore subject to their rules.  It was difficult for us to determine, as a family where to spend our time. Our oldest wanted to attend one high-priced theme park whereas the others wanted a different one. One family member wanted to go shopping and another wanted to spend time with family. In short, the whole vacation seemed like a negative experience from the start. Sometimes even seemingly bad moments on vacation can bring a family closer together as we learned what did not work for us as a family.

Two other times we did, actually, take “family vacations” when I spontaneously booked family getaways here in Israel. While they both were very costly and not in my nature to do so, both times the children were so excited to be together as a family, there was no fighting, no disagreements, only happiness and togetherness and pleasure. The children bring up these stories with smiles on their faces and, “Remember when?” on their lips, so we know that these memories are the ones they will remember.

In summary, I think the notion of having family vacations together is a wonderful concept. They should be spontaneous, out of the ordinary and fun. Anything that requires us to fit into someone else’s preconceived notions or requirements as a justification for a trip is simply not worth the price, and can ruin relationships and start family feuds.    Anonymous Mom

TIPS:

  1. Prepare a few choices beforehand and include both spouses and children in making the plans for the trip. Speak about the budget, the types of things each one wants to do and the issues you know will come up in order to help prevent stress and disappointment.

  2. Try to have a Plan B in case things don’t work out with your original plan.

  3. Tell the children beforehand about the places you are going to.

  4. When planning a trip take into consideration difficulties your child may have, such as waiting in long lines, being in crowded places, or abrupt change of plans.

  5. When traveling by plane or long bus rides, remember to bring games, art supplies etc. that will help keep kids occupied.

  6. Try to start the day with a good healthy breakfast and take snacks for the day.

  7. Give each child some responsibility and switch tasks each day if that works for your family (taking photographs/videos, choosing where to eat, being the navigator etc.)

  8. Don’t try to do too many things in one day. It’s better to see less while having a good time than turning the trip into an exhausting race.

  9. If necessary try to plan an itinerary that includes activities where each child can enjoy separate age appropriate activities.

  10. Your family doesn’t need to spend every minute of your vacation together. Sometimes it makes sense to split up and let different kids do different things.

  11. Planning a multi-generational, or multi-family trip can be challenging. Budgets can vary widely. Renting a big house can be economical, but the close living quarters may cause stress. Each family should share their expectations.  This way some of the time each family or different groups of like-minded people can spend some of the time doing their own thing.

  12. Give each child some money to buy a small present to remember the trip.

  13. Make sure to take lots of pictures and videos and make sure the kids get to take their own pictures.

  14. Spend time outside in nature which lowers stress levels and is great for ADHD kids.

  15. Allow for spontaneity, unplanned moments often provide some of the best memories.

  16. Take the time during dinner to go over the day and discuss the positives and negatives together.

  17. Take advantage of the opportunity for teachable moments such as learning about different cultures, as well as improving patience, understanding, flexibility, problem solving and time management skills.

  18. Not everyone can afford a family vacation in a hotel. Day trips, camping, hikes, or a picnic in a park are all good opportunities for family bonding.

  19. If nature is not your family’s thing then think about a family chessed or art project. Some examples are volunteering in a soup kitchen or clothing gmach, gardening, big puzzles, needlepoint, mosaic, quilting etc. Each family member contributes to some aspect of the project.

  20. Anticipate hearing “This place is sooooo boring!” and prepare beforehand how you will deal with it and don’t forget to go with the flow and be flexible!

Vacations give yourselves and your kids the precious gift of TIME.  Use it wisely!   Let your kids know that that they have your full attention, and that you enjoy being with them. Try to find small ways to continue the feeling of family bonding. Try a new recipe that is similar to something you ate on vacation. Don’t just share a few pictures on social media, put together a digital album for everyone to look at and remember!

The Kav L’Noar Family wishes all of our staff, families, friends and supporters

 enjoyable family vacations this summer!

*All pictures are for illustrative purposes and have no connection to the stories.

#family #familybonding #familyvacations #parenting

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