These two words summarize my summer. Because my husband is a teacher and I’m a freelancer, we’re blessed to have flexibility in the summertime to do things out of the norm. And this summer, for a full 6 weeks, we went on a family-time adventure as we drove out west to visit my in-laws in California. (Yes, I said drove. . . from Indianapolis. . . to California!)
The time on the road was magical in its own way: driving before dawn and watching the sunrise; spotting Cars-like Old Route-66 towns; watching armies of giant saguaro cacti “marching” along the highway; listening to a dramatization of Barry’s Peter Pan together in the van. And the best part was getting to Cali and spending blessed time with the Trujillo familia—good hugs, good eats, good laughs, good memories for a lifetime.
All that time together as a family (and of course, all that time in the car!) provided me a chance to think a bit more deeply about the power and importance of family time.
The serious business of laughter and fun: I could cite studies or psychologists’ quotes here, but instead I’ll just speak from my own experience. Having fun together forms bonds and deepens intimacy – among parents and children, among husband and wife. It’s so easy to lose sight of this in normal, hectic, busy life. We need to make fun a priority! Giggles, tickles, game-playing, joke-telling, face-making, silly-willy fun. It’s like glue. It helps us stick together.
Quantity matters: A plethora of articles will argue whether quantity time or quality time are more important in family life. Unfortunately, both of these arguments can end up making parents feel guilty! So I’m not wading in to that debate. But my point here is that even low-quality time – like really boring time, stretching out for hours and hours in a car in a hot, arid desert – can actually be really significant. In some magical way, time with family forms a sense of identity. It tells us who we are, who we belong to, who’s got our back. It reminds us of our obligations toward others, it pulls us out of the self-focused individualism always luring us, and it reaffirms that we were made to love.
The family mirror: Of course our vacation wasn’t all smiles and fun. Time in close quarters for 6 weeks will inevitably lead us to get on each others’ nerves, to have conflict, to annoy, and so on. This “unpleasant” reality of family life is true not just on vacations but at all times – we’re all guilty of treating our most loved ones the worst at times. Our family sees all our “ugly”—the stuff we try to hide from the rest of the world. But even this difficult part of family time is a blessing in disguise. In family struggles we learn to be humble, we learn to apologize, we learn to forgive. We’re given daily opportunities to be patient, to bear with another person, to bless rather than curse, to choose grace and redemption over bitterness and shame.
Thank you God for the blessed mirror of family that helps us see ourselves—the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Thank you, God, for the blessing of boredom together . . . in which we’re surprised to find hidden joy.
Thank you, God, for laughter. For smiles that knit us close.
Thank you, God, for family.