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Instruction Manual for Kids: Making Memories

We are gearing up for our family vacation.  As we plan, we find ourselves stuck in our typical ‘wish-we-had-set-aside-more-cash’ mode.  The past few years we have tweaked our vacation into a mild ‘working vacation’.  Kelsi is a photographer, and we will advertise photo sessions for where we vacation.  It typically takes a few hours on any given day.  She takes the pictures, saves the images, then waits to edit until after vacation is over.  That has been a very helpful way to ease the burden of ‘getting away’…  This year as we have been planning the summer vaca we noticed that we are typically in ‘vacation management mode’- meaning we know we need to get away just the five of us, we know we need to relax, regroup, and reset, but it seems like every year we try our best to just ‘make do’ and next year will be different…  Yet, life hasn’t gotten easier and we’ve been doing this ‘grown up’ thing long enough to know that as the parents we set the tone for vacation.

I didn’t know exactly what to title this, I wanted to name it ‘Instruction Manual for Kids: Groove Worthy’— but I didn’t think that explained the intent of this post well enough.  If you have ever studied the formation of memories on the brain, then you know that the grooves on your brain are similar to a filing cabinet or a highway system.  The deeper the groove, the stronger the memory.  As parents, when we get stuck in maintenance/management mode, we have to realize the effect that has on our children.  Remember your growing up years?  Remember when you were 5 and you fell off your bike, when you were 8 and that kid was goofy at school, when you were 14 and had your first ‘teenage kiss’, when you were 18 and moved out?  The formative years create such deep groves in our brains, that even people in their 80s hold their pre-20s in high esteem.  For the majority of the readership of this blog, our kids are still in their formative years.  As parents, we are managing life and trying to figure out how to be adults, but our kids are creating life-long/ life-impacting memories right before our eyes….and… the annual family vacation is sacred ground in the realm of childhood memories.

I grew up in Connecticut.  My parents are both from northern Indiana.  My childhood memories of vacation consist of the ‘farm smells’ that the hot and humid Midwest climate provide.  I went to college in Indiana, and as the planting season began I was constantly brought back to simpler times when I was a little boy on vacation.  Now, as the parent, I have to slow down and ask myself, ‘What life-long memories am I allowing my children to develop?’ and ‘Am I nurturing/shaping those memories?’…. Recall the post on shaping your child’s personality?  Well, as the parent you can actually shape your child’s memories.  And, what values are you communicating to your child as you shape their memories?

Before I go any further I want to clarify that I don’t believe that the values of ‘workaholic parents who buy off their kids with stellar and extravagant vacations in the name of good memories’ is something that I desire to instill in my children.  Kids aren’t dumb.  They see what’s going on.  They remember the other 50 weeks of the year when you were too busy to notice them.  They won’t turn down a fun vacation.  But is the vacation the only thing that is ‘groove worthy’?

See, I’m using the family vacation as the candle, but I want to shine the light on the bigger issue.  As parents frequently stuck in personal goals, career goals, and life management mode, what memories are your children creating?  Are you trying to create a Utopia where they are always happy and think you are Mr./Mrs. Awesome?  Do you feel so guilty that your career demands so much of your time that you give your children whatever they want?  Are you Captain Frugal and now are your children paranoid about finances?

Stop and take a second to breathe.  Life gets the best of all of us.  As the parent we set the tone for our kids.  If we’ve taken our eyes off of the parenting ball and forgot about how things affect our kids, then talk to your kids.  Be proactive and ask them what they thought about given situations.  Let them share their perspectives.  Even if their perspective is completely wrong from your intent, you have opened the door for relationship and have the opportunity to explain and clarify intent.

You’ll be amazed at the value of those memories.  The memories your kids develop of you taking the time to listen to them, letting them have a voice, explaining yourself, and nurturing your relationship with them.  What’s more valuable: An extravagant vacation with no relationship with your kids, or a humble Staycation where you kids get to enjoy you?

What are you doing that is groove-worthy?


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This post is linked to Welcome Home Link Up at Raising Arrows, Homestead Barn Hop at The Prairie Hometead, Monday Mania at Healthy Home Economist, Homesteader Blog Carnival at The Morris Tribe, Better Mom Mondays at The Better Mom, Seasonal Celebrations at The Natural Mother’s Network, Titus 2 Tuesdays at Cornerstone Confessions,  What Works Wednesday at Upside Down Homeschooler, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways at Frugally Sustainable, WLWW at Women Living Well

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