QUESTION: We’re a family of five: my husband, twin boys, age 12, and a daughter, age 8 and me. Now is the time to plan our family vacation, which we always take the last two weeks of July. This year, it has become a free for all. During the year, our children have many activities, and my husband and I both work. Family time is at a premium and vacation time is the only real time we have together. Our family rule is at age 8 our children get to help plan where we will spend our vacation time. This time, we literally have three different options and no one can agree.
We work very hard at being fair with our kids. Is there a way out of this sticky wicket?
~ Mom in the Eye of the Hurricane
Dear Hurricane Mom,
First and foremost, you are parent: hear you roar! You and hubby have final say-so in any decision, and the kids need to know that. The Bible says, “Honor your father and mother” (Exo 20:12 NIV), which means whatever choices your twins and 8-year-old contributor want to make regarding vacation, they must ask, “WWJD?” (i.e., What Would Jesus Do?). Or, What would Mom and Dad do? since parents are Jesus’ representatives. Feel free to enforce your God-given authority to rule your house along with Mister’s headship (that you inform with loving discussion).
I think it’s good that parents include their children in vacation planning, but just as in menu planning, candy can’t be the whole trip and this is where you must step up. Tell the kids, “We love you, but you three need to work this out together. You need to find common ground. You want a theme park? Fine. Agree on one. If you can’t, Dad and I will. You don’t want to visit historic sites? Tough. Dad and I are part of this vacation, too!”
God says, “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray” (Pro 22:6 NRS). That means that even vacation planning provides experience for adulthood, where loving compromise and concern for another’s desire trumps selfishness. It’ll be fun in the end, so don’t worry!
Scripture says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Pro 3:5 NIV). Do that now.
Dear Hurricane Mom,
I wish I knew what your family’s choices are so I would be able to tell if there were elements of similarity between the choices. There are different kinds of vacation experiences available to families. Perhaps a place to start in order to build a coalition would be to ask: do we want to focus on relaxing around the pool, learning (museums, family camp), amusement parks, outdoor sport, visiting nature, etc. When you settle on a type of thing, it is more possible to get everyone on the same page. You might find common interests that you didn’t even know existed and in sharing what looks like fun to you might spark your children’s imaginations as well.
I wish you a great two weeks this July and a more comfortable way to arrive at family decisions in the future.
Rabbi Janet Bieber
Jewish Community & Learning Center of the Foothills
QUESTION: My mom has an unmarried sister who is eccentric and dresses and acts like a teenager. We all love “Aunt Millie” anyway, and invite her to our family gatherings. I just don’t know how to explain her behavior in an understandable way to my college friends who we also invite to our gatherings. I can’t say I’m embarrassed by her behavior, more amused than anything. Do I have to forewarn my friends? And if they ask, what can I tell them?
~ Loving Niece
Dear Loving Niece,
The Buddha once said the greatest gift we can give to another is our kindness and compassion. Implicit in that is an acceptance of whatever that person is. No matter who they are, what they are, how they carry themselves, or behave, they are of enormous value, and therefore worthy of our consideration and respect.
The reason for that, I think the Buddha would say, is that all of us are definite manifestations and unique expressions of the Infinite at play in Its own creation.
I see a wonderful glimmer of the Buddha compassion, love and acceptance in you for your aunt. I can also appreciate your concern as to how your unknowing and unprepared friends might react. Perhaps there is even the concern of the possibility of their judgment, criticism and contempt, not only for her, but also for yourself or family because of her.
It is a sad truth that some people do not always react well to the unaccepted, unexpected or unfamiliar. So I think it is a great idea to give your friends a little heads up. Moreover, you will have the power and the gift to help frame and open it for them in such way that it can turn meeting your aunt into a positive and enjoyable experience instead of a negative one that they should be wary of, or braced for.
I would say this: “I have a colorful and eccentric aunt, with a surprising youthful spirit, who will be there. I hope you will come to enjoy and treasure her as much as we do.” I’d leave it at that. No further explanation necessary. The burden is on your friends to open their own hearts to showing kindness, compassion and acceptance for someone different than themselves, or to what they are use to. But then, that is all a part of the experience of what it is to grow up into a human being anyway.
RScP Center for Spiritual Living – La Crescenta
Dear Loving Niece,
I love “Aunt Millie” already – mostly because I am a bit like her. I will be 49 years old on my next birthday and my motorcycle boots with the black chain on the back are my favorite pair of shoes, besides my grey Converse.
The foundation of the ministry of Jesus was to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-39). I obviously don’t know what motivates Aunt Millie to dress and act like a teenager as you describe, but asking why isn’t necessary to love her and accept her unconditionally. Being a young person is difficult; we want to explain away eccentricities or why someone stands out from the crowd in their behavior, attitudes or dress. As I have matured, both emotionally and spiritually, I have saved a lot of time by letting go of analyzing and asking why. Acceptance and love are time savers and yielders of great fruits.
No need to forewarn your friends about your aunt and, if they ask, you can say, “She’s amazing, isn’t she? I love her to pieces.”
Holly Stauffer Postulant in the Episcopal Church of the Diocese of Los Angeles, St. Luke’s of the Mountains