Dear Rachel,

My in-laws think we should take the kids away over the summer holidays, and have offered to pay for it. However, my husband and I really don't enjoy family vacations with young children. We prefer to stay at home and take small day trips. It just doesn't seem worth the hassle to take the kids out of their familiar environment. When they get off-schedule, they fight non-stop. It is always a relief to come home, and return to our regular routine. Just the thought of taking a vacation makes me tense. I would love to use the money to send the kids to camp instead, but my husband is worried that his parents would be insulted if we don't take them up on their offer. I would really appreciate your input.

Vacation Impaired Mom

Dear Vacation Impaired Mom,

It often seems like people expect themselves and their families to be transformed by the very simple fact of leaving home. So they are taken off guard when kids kvetch and fight, and parents argue or worry about money. Yet these behaviors are quite common and ordinary. Just because a family has taken a holiday does not mean that the nature of their family dynamic will change. However a family ordinarily acts at home, it is possible to assume that they will act that same way away from home.

People frequently sabotage their vacations with wishful and fantastical thinking. The overload of unrealistic expectations is what makes vacation experiences become tense. If a vacation was viewed as just an ordinary time period, during which you may or may not enjoy yourself, you may or may not have a headache, and the kids may or may not spend the entire day fighting, then it would be possible to separate the crushing weight of expectations from the reality. In such a situation, it would be possible to consider what type of vacation is realistic and reasonable given the families circumstances.

However a family ordinarily acts at home, it is possible to assume that they will act that same way away from homeConsider that in Jewish thought, the home is the central and unifying factor of family life. Family relationships are created and nurtured by shared experiences that take place at home such as extended Shabbat and holiday meals, lighting Shabbat and Hanukah candles, and singing or sharing Torah thoughts. Even playing board games as a family on a Shabbat afternoon helps people to reconnect more deeply after a week spent apart watching television or listening to an Ipod.

In contrast to Jewish thought, modern culture continues to emphasize experiences outside the home over more home centered ones. Yet while vacationing and visiting new places can certainly be fun and exhilarating, they do not replace daily life in the way that dessert does not replace the meal that precedes it.

Vacations are successful when they help us appreciate the people and the blessings that we already possess. They are also useful as a way of breaking up the monotony of daily routine. However, I certainly believe that it is possible to raise a healthy and happy family without taking family vacations.

Explain to your in-laws respectfully that while you truly appreciate their offer, your children do best in their familiar environment and you prefer to focus on maximizing the quality of your family's shared experiences at home at this stage. Emphasize that their offer would be appreciated when the kids are older, but this summer you prefer to send the kids to camp.

Thanks for writing,