We just got back from the family vacation to the Great Smokey Mountains, and it has given me time to reflect on the whole family vacation experience. Â I wrote a number of weeks ago about the whole saga of trying to figure out a way to get the whole family together for a summer vacation, and in truth this may be the last year that we get everyone together, and all my kids are still at home. Â Sad, I know. Â But we did it, had a great time, and now it’s time for me to do my fatherly duties (aside from making a video clip about it) and write about it.
We decided to stay in a cabin in the Great Smokey Mountains, in Gatlinburg, TN. Â We have visited there many times before and our kids love it. Â We take food and spend lots of time grilling out, playing games, watching movies, and generally bonding. Â There is also a fair share of arguing, picking-on, pettiness, and rough-housing where someone ends up hurt. Â But that’s part of it.
If you have ever been to Gatlinburg, then you know what it’s like there. Â It is a fantastic place to experience real artisan craftsman making folk art and the like. Â It has been that way for decades, but has over the past several years grown to more than that. Â You have your typical tourist shops selling t-shirts and little plastic frogs, and the street hawker trying to sell you a trip to go see some bears or take a helicopter ride. Â But the main reason we love going there is because my kids have lots of memories there, and they secretly crave what all kids love. Â A chance to make some memories.
You see, what our kids talk about all the time are things like…’Do you remember when Evan got knocked out of the boat and almost drowned? That was so much fun!!’ Â Or maybe… ‘Remember that baby bear we saw when that mother bear was like getting ready to eat us? Â That was awesome!’. Â Yes, we like to live on the wild side as a family. Â And that’s my point.
What my kids don’t talk about is the t-shirt they got, or the shark tooth in the little bottle that they just had to have. Â What they talk about are the experiences we had together. Â The white water rafting trip. Â The horse-back riding. Â The zip-line ride through the trees. Â If you looked at the cost of some of those things, then you might pause and think about doing something a little cheaper. Â But I don’t look at the cost so much. Â I won’t remember the money, but I will remember the great time we had.
What I remember about my own family are things like… riding in the back of the station wagon on the way to the Grand Canyon, the dozens of campsites we stayed at, and skiing the Swiss Alps. Â I don’t remember a single item that was ever purchased for me. Â But I do remember skiing down the side of that mountain with my dad hot on my heels trying to keep up.
So when I say ‘no’ to my kids for the 100th time about wanting to buy that little plastic frog, I secretly smile inside. Â Because I know that they will look back and remember the memories that we made together. Â That’s what I spend my money on.