Making Family Time Truly Count

3 years ago
Let's be honest.  As parents, most of us share the idea that a great vacation would just be to stay home, vegetate and really not have to think of anything or anyone else.  The idea of packing and planning seem even more exhausting sometimes, and hence less enticing than, say, cleaning your bathrooms at home.  But, it is what it is.  We have our children to think about and give in to.  
So last week, since it was my son's spring break, we headed out to a small, quiet town, around 2 1/2 hours east of Nashville.  I didn't dread this trip so much because it was a manageable distance from home, and I knew we'd be using our timeshare for the whole week which means we'd have a fully furnished condominium.  Knowing that we'd be staying at a 'house' as opposed to just a 'room' makes a huge difference in my stress levels.
Now, when I say 'quiet town', I do mean it.  When we got there, we realized that it was like a retirement community. Most of the people within the resort, as well as those residing in the surrounding areas, are senior citizens.  I have nothing against this and if you know me, you'd understand how I actually prefer these quiet and low-key environments.  And seriously, why would anyone complain waking up to this view?




The only two down sides were that (1) this place was clearly not a foodie's paradise as there were hardly any remarkable places for dining (although food was definitely not bad either); and (2) there were not too many attractions for children.  The town is known as the golf capital of the state and that has no relevance whatsoever to a six-year old.  
So what did we do to keep our son entertained after realizing driving around to view the lakes and mountains was not doing anything for him?...We drove to the Knoxville Zoo which was about an hour away.

Truth be told, I've always felt ambivalent about zoos.  On the one hand, I understand that they educate people about the various animal species, as well as raise funds for the preservation of endangered ones.  However, on the other hand, a part of me feels it's cruel for using the animals as entertainment, or something to watch, as they are caged and taken out of their natural habitats.  This feeling always heightens when I see the apes. Most of the time, they seem depressed and bored, and since evolutionarily speaking, they are the closest to humans, I seriously empathize with them. (And I seriously mean this in a way that might seem freakish to others).  I couldn't even bring myself to take photos of the gorillas because I was too sad and felt like I was being too cruel if I did so.

But I still had to take some photos, if only to capture the happiness and curiosity of my son.
One thing has become clear to me after this vacation.  Yes, we did a variety of things, from activities unique to the towns we visited, to just fun family activities like tennis, swimming and mini-golf.  But it's never in the busyness, grandness or novelty of experiences that happiness lies.  It's really in being in the moment.  To be honest, I felt that it didn't matter what we did or where we went.  What made it fun and remarkable especially for our son was that we were truly there with him.  We were all focused on each other, did away with distractions and made the effort to be in the moment.  It's really the best gift we can all give to each other, and the only element that can make any time spent authentically valuable.
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