Vacation — half the fun is surviving time with family

Our son and his family sent a classic snippet while they are on vacation. It is a short video that opens with the sun beaming streaks of apricot behind a bank of dark scalloped clouds hugging the horizon.


The camera pans a barn, a windmill, beautiful wide-open prairies and wheat fields with perfect right-angle corners. Breathtaking. And then in the background you hear one of the kids yelling, “Stop it, John!”

It’s family vacation time. Who hasn’t had the pleasure? You plan, you map, you pack, you estimate travel time, you pack some more, you count down the days, the kids are excited, you’re excited; but there are always those moments that no family vacation is without.

No vacation is complete without some fighting in the backseat.

No vacation is complete without at least one brief moment wishing you’d never left home.

No vacation is complete without, “I have to go and I have to go now!” Just as no vacation is complete without at least one, “I don’t feel so good,” or “What’s this rash on my arms?”

Somewhere along the line you can plan on someone copping an attitude. Someone will touch someone else’s leg, and that will trigger an all-out battle. One of your points-of-interest won’t quite match the description on the Internet. There were no tour buses in the photo online, no long wait for a dirty restroom, no bees circling the overflowing trashcan.

Our son sent another email from where they are camping for the night. They are at the Ingalls homestead (as in “Little House on the Prairie”) in De Smet, South Dakota. The picture is the view from their tent and around their tent. It is flat prairie nothingness. There’s no pump, spigot, small creek bed or water drop in sight. No outhouse or port-a-potty can be seen. There is one lonely picnic table, but no grill or fire pit.

There is not another human being in sight. Coyotes and wolves are probably lurking in that tree line in the distance, waiting for nightfall. The skies are clear. You can feel the scorching heat.

It is a still picture with no sound. Probably just as well. Some memories are better left on mute.

Still, they are making the best kind of memories. They are learning to be family, to get along, to iron out differences, to endure one another and love another. Even a vacation is a mixed bag of ease and challenge. Life always is.

To those of you traveling great distances or vacationing with small children this year, two things: God speed, and remember — a family vacation is two parts relaxation and one part “Survivor.”