Every time I periodically go back to Martha’s Vineyard, MA, where I vacationed with my parents and siblings as kids every summer for 18 years, certain family stories are immediately conjured in my mind.
Why? Because family travel is the stuff out of which family traditions are created. While one rarely looks back fondly at all the hours we or our parents worked while at home, it’s a natural to go to the happy places when we reminisce. And for most of us, our fondest childhood memories are from family vacations.
The Importance of Family Lore
As one matures, the importance of family memories becomes more evident especially once we hit retirement age and have more time to look back over our life. However, family stories are equally as important to children and young adults as they are to older adults. Family lore creates an anchor for children, teenagers and parents aike. Even when families separate due to divorce, relocation, or death, the positive family stories still remain alive in everyone’s mind.
I have found that my family tradition – both from my childhood as well as that of my children today – centers greatly around family vacations. I can still go to Edgartown
Harbor in Martha’s Vineyard and immediately conjure up a comical family scene from my
youth. This particular one story involves my Dad uncharacteristically throwing the bathing suit bag impulsively to my sister, who missed it. Instead it fell into the water by the pier and his bathing suit started sinking. Next thing we knew there was a whole crowd around trying to fish my Dad’s bathing suit out of the busy harbor, to no avail!
This penchant for family stories evolving around travel is also true for my children Alexandra and Ethan. The majority of their stories center around our annual two week family vacations in Cape Cod. My kids and their cousins who vacation at the same time as us on Cape Cod love to reminisce about the times they had mock “sumo wrestling” competitions on the beach when crowds thinned out. What they loved best was that one of the parents got involved in the competition much to their surprise! It was all good fun and will live on in their minds forever.
How to Nurture it in Your Family
I can’t urge you enough to get out of town – even if it’s for a day – with your children to create family lore. While travel budgets vary per family, day hikes or trips to local amusement parks are a good first step in connecting with your children without the daily pressures of home and work life. For it’s when everyone is relaxed and having fun, that family stories are created.
Obviously, the longer you can go away, the better for nurturing family lore. Last summer we went to Cape Cod two days prior to the commencement of our home rental and enjoyed the Cape Codder Resort & Spa. Even though my children spent two action-packed weeks after that on Cape Cod, my 10-year-old son Ethan’s first comment whenever I mention Cape Cod is, “Are we going to the Cape Codder again?” He loved the indoor water park, outdoor heated pool, and many family activities held throughout the day.
But even more, Ethan and I sensed the family atmosphere of the resort. Because of the safe and comfortable atmosphere, I allowed Ethan and his 12- and 14-year-old cousins a bit of freedom while at the Cape Codder to independently enjoy non-water activities. In fact, this brief experience provided Ethan with the next step of family memories: lore revolving around what he and his cousins did independently of adults. This is a funny photo they asked someone to take while making their own family memories at the Cape Codder Resort & Spa.
How to Keep it Alive
Verbal communication is the best way to nurture and keep family reminiscences alive. It’s through re-telling the stories over and over again, that they take on a life of their own. They almost become larger than life because admittedly, many of us like to exaggerate stories when we tell them verbally. Before you know it, a fun recounting of something that happened to your family while traveling has turned into a captivating tall tale!
In this day of digital and social media communication, many of the younger generation especially like to keep family stories alive via photographs and posting them on social media sites. I encourage this since looking through old photos (be they in print or on your computer) is a great way to get the “remember when” juices flowing.
The more positive excitement your kids generate from recounting family vacation lore, the easier it will be for you to get them to agree to your next family trip choice. So while your children’s repetitiveness of key family stories might illicit from you some thoughts such as, “Oh, no, not this story again,” they are actually helping you sell them on your next family trip.
Whether it’s a day trip or longer getaways, the most important part is to hit the road with your kids this summer. Before you know it, you’ll be back home hearing your kids fondly creating family lore which starts, “Remember when…”
What are some of your favorite stories created during family trips?