We just got back from a week vacation with all of our kids at the Disney Aulani Resort in Hawaii.
It was an amazing trip. We had a great time and we loved (almost) every second of it. Many lasting and great memories were made!
When we got back, we had someone come up to us and tell us we can’t do all these vacations anymore, because his wife wants to take their son, who is just older than our youngest, on all these trips now after seeing our pictures. (FYI – he said it jokingly!) My response: “GO! Just take him” “…but he won’t remember.” “That just means that you need to go often!”
This is something we hear ALL THE TIME with our travels around the country and to Disney. “We would love to do something like that, but we want to wait until our kids are old enough/ready/at the perfect age”
Can I tell you a secret?? That will NEVER happen. Sure, there are some ages that may be the “Perfect” age for a certain experience, but that doesn’t mean a different age won’t get something just as valuable from the experience. Who is to say what the “perfect” age for every experience is? Each age will gain something different and special from every situation and experience in life. Even if they won’t remember the experience, YOU will have those memories to take with you and keep with you forever. Not to mention, when you have more than one child, you will NEVER and I mean NEVER have all your kids in that “perfect” age zone. I would argue, that every age, is the “perfect” age.
A few years ago, there was a young, newlywed women I knew, who was killed in a car crash near my home, on her way home from college classes. It made me really consider my mortality. Accidents happen. Illnesses happen. Circumstances change. We can’t plan for everything – and coming from someone who plans things YEARS in advance, it is hard for me to think about.
What if we only did things when the timing was “perfect?” If we waited to have kids until we had enough money and the timing in life was perfect. Ha! I think we all know that would never happen. We will never have “enough” money (unless you are a multimillionaire – and if you are, do you need a new friend?? 😉 ) and the timing will never be “just right.” This is coming from someone that has planned each and every one of her children. Even with all that planning, things never went that smoothly. My husbands’ job became in jeopardy during 3 out of my 4 pregnancies. We couldn’t plan for that. Life happens. We need to make the most of it, as it happens. If I had only taken my children places when the timing was “perfect,” we would have missed out on so many memories that I cherish. Not to mention that with 4 kids, we would probably just sit at home, because the timing for all 4 will never be “perfect.”
I always said that we would wait until our youngest was 6, and then we would go on a trip to Hawaii. Then I realized, anything could happen while we waited for everyone to be “old” enough, and for the timing of all our kids to be “perfect.” The opportunity came for us to make this trip (VERY, VERY affordably by the way!), so we took it. I realized the “perfect” timing may not actually be “perfect,” or may never come at all. Opportunities don’t always happen when you need/want them to.
Will our almost two-year-old remember it? No, not likely. But will I remember how he did a little happy dance when he met Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck? For sure! Will I remember how happy he was playing in the sand, building sand castles, and then stomping them down? Most certainly. Will I remember him falling asleep on me in the lazy river in the afternoon? Without a doubt.
My 4-year-old may or may not remember snippets of the trip. My 9.5-year-old and 12-year-old will remember. I remember taking a trip to Hawaii when I was 8 and cherish those memories to this day. My 12-year-old will remember celebrating her 12th birthday in Hawaii and her parents making it as special as possible. My 9.5-year-old will remember boogie boarding with me and floating/jumping off a mat in the Ocean. My 4-year-old will remember spending a week with his family, his parents giving him undivided attention, and taking him down his favorite waterslide over and over.
Our daughters’ first trip to Washington DC was 7 months old. Our son(s) first trips to Disney were at 4/5 months old and now with 4 kids, I have taken kids on these different vacations at almost every age/stage. Were they the “perfect” ages for these trips? Not by some standards, but I argue, that it is always the “perfect” age. I will remember the squeal of delight of my infant on the first drop in Pirates of the Caribbean, the look of delight on my 2 year old’s face when she saw Mickey for the first time, or the happiness of my 9 year old when their dad took them on their favorite Roller Coaster 6 times in a row. I will remember taking my kids on a tour of the White House, or on the private trains under the Capitol building for Senators and Congressmen. When a certain 3 year old touched (like with his whole palm) a painting in the Smithsonian (not sure I should admit this… so I will not say exactly which one 😉 ) Or when that same kid, at 6 years old insisted we go to the National Gallery of Art, because he wanted his picture taken will a certain Monet painting.
Am I saying you need to run out and spend your money on an expensive vacation? Certainly not! Never go into debt for a vacation. Only go if you can truly afford it (as in cash, that won’t dip into emergency savings!! Suze Orman taught me right!) Memories are made, not bought. The only thing you need to make memories as a family, is your time.
Some of my fondest memories are of taking a hike as a family, going to a local attraction or event, or simply taking my kids out of school to go to a special lunch (and then taking them back to school – that was not their favorite part!). Making lasting memories doesn’t have to cost anything more than your time. One day, we took all the giant boxes we had recently gotten and turned our office into a big fort. It was a space ship, a store, an airplane, an amusement park, all in a matter of hours. The youngest may have been considered too “young” to enjoy/remember it and the oldest may have been considered too “old” to think it was fun, but you know what? We were together as a family, each having fun, and we enjoyed it for hours together. I still remember that time together.
After our last was born, we took a little over a year off traveling. We stuck to staycations and stuck to our local area (with the exception of a quick road trip to Utah to see my grandma, who was in failing health). It was WONDERFUL! We explored local parks, attractions, Great Wolf Lodge, local fairs, museums, zoos, beaches, and mountains (we are blessed to live an hour from the beach, an hour from the big city, and an hour from the mountains!). I would wrap the baby up in my Moby wrap and off we would go. We would take long weekend adventures together and it was simply wonderful. Many weekends, no money was spent (other than gas and the picnic lunch), but many memories were made!
Ultimately, What I am saying is, don’t wait to make memories with your family, especially your children. Don’t wait for that “perfect” age, because it will never come. Or as I argue, every age is the “perfect” age! Make those memories with your kids now. You never know what tomorrow will bring. Even if they won’t remember, they will love hearing your memories, seeing pictures when they are older, and knowing about the time and love that you spent with them. Plus, YOU will have those memories – cherished memories of your beautiful children. They are only with you for a short period of time, before they leave to start their own adventures. Make every second you have with them count. Don’t wait to start making those memories. The timing will never be “perfect” for every event in their life. Make now the perfect time to make those memories with them.