The Power of Commitment

A portion of a recent radio interview I did for Live the Promise / Faith Radio has been turned into the blog post below. It’s a great time to set your goals for taking your marriage to the next level in 2016.

THE POWER OimageF COMMITMENT

“One of the most urgent human needs is to be heard.”

When we are in a tough situation, the last thing we want to do is listen to our spouse. We tense up, distance ourselves emotionally, and try to get the last word. But God calls us to honor them by engaging and letting them open up. There is power in giving someone the opportunity to be heard. This can be practiced with every relationship, but is particularly important in marriage.

Author Deb DeArmond writes about this in her book, I Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last. She and her husband had been married a very short time when he pointed something out to her about the power of giving someone “air time.” He shared that he first felt attracted to her because she had listened to him. He told her,

“You were interested in what I was thinking about. You wanted to know my opinion and how I felt about things.”
Forty years later, it’s till one of his strongest needs.

“I recognize he needs to be heard; I cannot cut him off. He’s an engineer. He thinks long and intricately about things- he’s a process guy. He said to me once, “You think faster than I do. You talk faster than I do. And if you want to win you’re on a roll, but if you want an outcome we can both really support, we need to slow this down a little bit and come to a solution we can both live with.”

It can be easy to run our spouse over in conversation, but that doesn’t build intimacy. Deb urges spouses, especially wives, to draw out their spouse by asking questions and listening well. Ask,

We’re struggling. What are your thoughts about it?
What’s in your heart?
What would you like to see happen?
What needs to change in our relationship?

This is not just a natural issue but a spiritual one, as Deb points out. “Open the dialogue, because as soon as the dialogue stops we start listening to the wrong voices. Shutting down communication can give Satan a foothold to work against us and start to unravel a relationship.

Key Scriptures: Proverbs 18:21; James 3:5

Enrich Your Marriage in 2016: Free Audio Book Giveaway!

Cover I choose you today JPGHow would your marriage change if you and your husband made the spoken declaration, “I choose you” every day? Even when “for better or worse is disappointing? The book offers inspirational stories, conventional wisdom and thought provoking questions to explore your choices and commitment to each other . . . every day of your marriage.

You CAN make a choice to take your marriage to the next level – no matter where it is today. It’s all about the choices we make. Endorsements include Focus on the Family and James Dobson’s Family Talk. Here’s what they have to say:

  • “It’s often been said that our choices define us. That is true personally, but it’s also a key to our relationships. Deb DeArmond has provided a practical and insightful book detailing 31 choices we can make as husband and wives that have the potential to transform even a good marriage – and make it a great one. -b>Greg Smalley, Vice-President of Family Ministry, Focus on the Family
  • “I Choose You Today gives us a clear roadmap to achieving great love with our spouse. Every couple, married or not, will benefit from reading this book.” – Meg Meeker, M.D. best selling author and co-host of Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk Radio

Use this link to enter today. Deb DeArmond Book Giveaway

Not in Front of the Kids!!


Children learn
“Not in front of the kids!” was a phrase I recall a mom in my neighborhood using fairly often. It was always whispered through gritted teeth, accompanied by a stern glare, when one of the teenagers in the room used a word she though inappropriate for us little kids.

The teens thought it was hilarious, and did it to show off how grown up they were and to bait her practiced response.

Adults on social media, discussing politics, and specifically the recent world events in Paris and California might benefit from the presence of that neighborhood watchmom.

I am stunned at the hatred and vile comments hoisted into cyerspace from those who claim to love and know Jesus. And if the depth of their anger and vitriol are any indication, I doubt Facebook is their only outlet. They write it because they believe it. And if they believe it, it is invading their attitudes and their conversations with those in their world.

  • I hate them all and cannot pray for them.
  • Kill them and wrap them in pigskins. Then let them try to get to their god.

Both of these actual comments from people whose profiles showed they were Christians. And these were some of the tamer quotes.

This is not just a political issue. This is a family issue.

What about the children? Your kids, your grandkids? What are we teaching them about the very specific commandments Jesus gave us while here on earth?

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you,” Matt. 5:24 (KJV).

“Do to others as you would like them to do to you,” Luke 6:31 (NLT).

It does not instruct us to do unto others as they have DONE to us. And while what has been done is horrific, without excuse, and beyond explanation, we must know that those who have murdered innocents have been deceived by their false prophet into believing they are serving their god.

We have the opportunity to teach our children to follow the Word, regardless of our fears or our feelings. It’s easy to do so when all is well with our world. Much tougher to do when it seems chaotic and out of control. But it begins in us, to reject the fear that breeds anger and hatred and lean heavily on God’s Spirit within to love and forgive instead. Our children learn what they live and live what they learn. What are they learning in our homes today?

Here are three tips to prevent your anxiety from creating fear in your children.

  • Reassure them that God is watching over them. Help them understand early in life that God is on their side, always with them because He loves them.
  • Keep adult conversations among the adults.Discussing the world around us and praying for protection and resolution is important. But allow children to be free of hearing your anxiety or anger expressed. It serves no purpose, but to create anxiety in them.
  • Ask God to guide your own emotional responses. Focus on the scriptures and Christ’s example of loving those who hate you. He was innocent throughout the days leading up to the cross and could have allowed His righteous anger to guide Him. He chose, instead, to ask His Father to forgive them with His very last breath. Ask God to guide your responses and emotions through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

In the Rogers and Hammerstein musical, South Pacific, there is a beautiful song, You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught, that addresses the idea that children are born as clean slates. And yet they learn how to hate. It doesn’t have to come in a daily tutorial or indoctrination. It comes by observing the people they love and trust. Read the lyrics (below) and see if they strike a chord in you. Little eyes are watching, little hearts are forming their thoughts based on the adults around them. They’re counting on us.

You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught

You’ve got to be taught

To hate and fear,

You’ve got to be taught

From year to year,

It’s got to be drummed

In your dear little ear

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

 

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

 

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people your relatives hate,

You’ve got to be carefully taught!

3 Tips to Beating the Holiday Balancing Act

MamaI was part of an interesting discussion on social media recently. A grieving mom had posted about the decision made by her adult children regarding the Christmas holidays this year. Their plan meant they’d not be present with her and her hubby on Christmas Day. Instead, they will spend it with the families of their spouses, and then arrive for a late celebration a couple of days after the holiday.

Many other moms joined the discussion, expressing similar experiences and acknowledging how painful it was. What struck me was how often these women blamed themselves for not being the mom their kids would want to come home to. “I thought we were really aclose-knit family,” one woman shared. “I guess I was wrong.”

These sweet mamas pronounced themselves “failures” because their grown sons or daughters would choose to spend the holiday with their in-law families rather than the “people who raised them.” Heartbreaking. And so not true.

My response to that sadness was simple: it’s probably not about you at all, so don’t pick up the guilt of inadequacy quite yet. It’s okay to be disappointed. But let’s be honest, unless there’s been bad blood or difficult family drama in the past, it’s most likely the balancing act couples must play at the holidays: Christmas Eve with HIS family, Christmas Day with HER family, alternating Thanksgiving each year with Easter, and so on. It’s a complex schedule.

It might be finances that keep them from coming, or the desire to finally have a Christmas Eve in their own home. The in-law family may due to host them or they might be applying pressure or guilt. The first year I decided to invite both my folks and his family for Christmas Day in our home, it nearly started World War III. But it all worked out. Eventually.

I have three sons; no pink in my tribe. I understood early that my role in their lives changed the day they married. God sent these boys to me to raise, but not to keep. I was never supposed to be the most important woman in their life. That may be a tough pill to swallow, but it’s God’s plan, not mine.

So if my son’s wife (or a daughter’s husband) takes that top spot, their family becomes part of the equation. I’d love to have all of my sons, their wives, and my grandsons home for every holiday, but it’s not only unrealistic, it’s not fair. Those other mamas should be honored as well.

So if you find yourself in this situation this year, here are three tips for dodging the self-blame and keeping it all in perspective.

  • Be flexible. We’ve done Christmas early, and we’ve celebrated after the holiday. We’ve come to the conclusion we enjoy spending the time together when the hoopla and crazy pace of the actual day has passed. Less pressure, more fun. It’s the time together that matters, not the specific day.
  • Be gracious. What if the kids want to go snorkeling this year in Hawaii instead of attending any family gathering? Drive them to the airport and wish them sweet aloha for their getaway time. Couples – of all ages – need to recharge and holidays provide the chance for time away. Wish them well, offer to keep the kids and feed their dog while they’re gone. Their marriage will benefit from the boost.
  • Be grateful. Many are alone – for every holiday. They have no family. If God has blessed you with children, acknowledge the gift of their presence in your life if not in your home this year. There will be other opportunities.

This is the first year we will not have all three of our sons and their families together at some point during the season. So my hubby and I will travel to visit one couple in mid-December and do an early celebration with another son before they head out to visit her family. On Christmas Day we’ll be with our third son and his family in their home – not ours. Another first. We are looking for a place to volunteer that day as well.

It will be a different kind of holiday. But different’s not wrong, it’s just different. Most important though is not to beat yourself up if your celebration will not look like the Christmas card image we all have in our head. Comparison is about making you feel inferior and that’s no way to honor the Lord.

After all, it’s not about us. It’s about the birth of our King who came to us that night, His parents far from their families and all they had known. And look how well that turned out.

Merry Christmas.

 

Solving the Christmas Mystery

Mystery gift“I’ve solved the mystery,” a newlywed recently told me. “I now fully understand why my husband never puts his dish in the sink or picks up his underwear off the floor where he stepped out of them. His mother raised him to be helpless.”

I laughed. She didn’t.

She recounted their cross-country trip for the Christmas holidays, which they spent in her mother-in-law’s home. “It was our first Christmas together as a married couple, but his mom had not been well and she begged us to come. Apparently her son is the cure for what ails her,” she sighed loudly as she recalled the trip. “She waited on him hand and foot. From the tearful greeting at the front door till the moment we left.You would have thought he was coming home from the war: My son! My son has come home! “Just something about that set my teeth on edge. His home is 2000 miles away. This is his mother’s home. He’s a grown man, for crying out loud.”

It was a tough situation. But most men come to the altar with something very real: the other woman, his mother, who has known and loved him far longer than “that new woman.” Mama probably also thinks she loves him more than any wife ever could.

You can come to the in-law party at any age. It’s not reserved for twenty-somethings alone. But the older you are, the more challenging a task to build a relationship with the other woman may be. Accepting and welcoming a new daughter might be easier when you’re 45 than at 60. We’ve spent more time on the planet at 60, selected and become committed to our way of thinking, living and being.

The same is true for the new bride. The longer you’ve been out from under your own mother’s purview and lived on your own makes a difference. Accepting the drama from a brand new mama may be a long way down on your to-do list. And the challenges between mamas and the girls who marry their sons have no expiration date. The distance and difficulty may remain in the relationship far beyond the first year of adjustment.

There are other twists on the scenario with the women in question smiling through gritted teeth at best, snarling and spitting at worst. All as we sit together around the Christmas tree in celebration of the birth of our Lord.

There may have been past hurts in the relationship between the MIL and the DIL. Other variations on the theme may be a factor, as well: today’s families are complex, with blended families, ex-spouses, step-grandparents and so on. Tensions can run high.

So how do we focus on the real reason we’ve come together? A couple of quick tips: don’t dredge it or dramatize it. Drop it, instead.

  • Don’t Dredge It: Don’t make this year’s holidays unbearable by dredging up the past, obsessing about it for weeks in advance and assuming that this year, too, will be a disaster. It will create dread on your part and the potential to read something negative into everything she says. If you go loaded for bear, every movement in the brush gets a backside of buckshot. Let the past stay in the past.
  • Don’t Dramatize It: It’s a brief season. Avoid creating drama over a few days spent together. I spoke to a woman who dreaded the holidays because her woman-in-law was such a drama queen, similar to the woman in our opening example. If she wants to make a fuss over her only son, let her – and stop rolling your eyes. He’s still going home with you when it’s over. And Mama, remember, his wife is the most important woman in his life. If you love him, treat her as he would expect you to.
  • Drop It! Take past issues and hurts to the foot of the cross, drop them and, walk away. Make a decision to leave them there. Jesus is more than able to heal the hurt that comes from rejection by those who are supposed to love you – He experienced it. Whether you are the MIL or the DIL, if you are a follower of Christ, it’s what He expects us to do. I am not suggesting what you’ve experienced isn’t genuinely painful. I am suggesting that if you are waiting for her to make it right, you might wait a very long time.

Why not make this the year you make your move and choose a fresh start in the relationship? Consider it a gift to the man in the middle. Doing it will make more real the holiness of this holiday season – and it will make our Lord smile.

This topic is tough to address in a single post. My book, Related by Chance, Family by Choice, covers the topic of women-in-law relationships comprehensively. Written with the input of my own three daughters-in-love, it’s for every woman whether the relationship is just beginning, already difficult – or good, and you’d like to take it up a notch. You can find it at the links listed here at:
Amazon
ChristianBooks.com
or at your local Christian Book store.

Thanksgiving: An Intimate Affair

Thanksgiving 2This is one of those posts I call “evergreen” – it’s applicable year after year and in so many different ways. When I wrote it last year, we were preparing for an unusually small Thanksgiving gathering. But for many, small is the norm. You may be away from family, or perhaps your family is not super-sized. My motto is: “If you can’t fix it, feature it!” So here are some benefits of an intimate turkey day gathering. Enjoy!

This will be a different kind of Thanksgiving holiday. Many of our family members (and some oft-included friends) will be traveling this year to see family in other places. Instead of our usual table for 35 or so, we will be fourteen for turkey. Different.

Especially since the chief turkey briner/cook will not be present. No worries, our matriarch will step in to baste that bird into glorified goodness. I don’t need to double or triple the side dishes, and we will cut the recipe for pumpkin cheesecake in half. An adjustment here, a time-saver there.

So instead of feeling blue over the crowd that won’t gather, I’ve decided to treasure the pleasure that will come with a small assembly. No scrambling for the white meat. No gravy shortage. Fewer dishes and less time in the kitchen. But that’s the low hanging fruit. What about something a bit meatier? Here are three differences I’m looking forward to this year.

  • Less focus on food and more on family. When you’re cooking for 35, it can be all about coordinating the timing so the turkey is ready to carve at the same time the sweet potatoes are bubbly hot. It can be stressful and I’ve been known to snap at my loved ones who wander out to the kitchen and ask, “Isn’t it ready yet?” It’s an aggravation I’m still learning to manage. So I’m grateful there will be fewer folks to watch the clock as their stomach growls. I plan to hold a few babies, visit with my sweet mother-in-law, and hold my hubby’s hand while we watch some football. If the schedule gets off a bit, I’ll add microwaves to my gratitude list for the day.
  • The opportunity for meaningful conversation. With 30+ folks milling around, the discussions are often more small talk and catching up. I’m looking forward to a hearty discussion or two on world events and updates on new homes or jobs for some. I may even take a shot at debating with my brother-in-law, someone I love dearly, but with whom I rarely agree. I don’t want to miss asking my 7-year old great-niece, “what’s new in second grade?” as it always yields a great discovery, along with a smile over just how grown up she is these days.
  • Time to reflect on the immeasurable goodness of God. The name “Thanksgiving” implies we should be focused on the gifts and blessings in our lives. Gratitude is the attitude that helps us keep the little things from becoming the big things. An awareness of the goodness in our life calibrates our thinking and balances out the occasional icky stuff without catastrophizing it. And with a small crowd, we can take a few minutes around the table to share our greatest blessing of the year. The food would be cold if we tried to do that with our usual group, so I’m hoping we can include it in this different kind of year. I love to hear how God’s working in the lives of those I treasure.

Colossians 3:15 encourages us: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” I pray your holiday brings you a refreshed awareness of God’s presence in your life – no matter what your circumstances. He sees you. He loves you. So while this Thanksgiving might be different – He remains the same, yesterday, today and forever. Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Play It Again, Sam!

Do Over 2

There are days we long for a do-over. Yesterday’s poor food choices or the thoughtless remark made in a heated moment. Small things that add up. But what about the big stuff? Like a look back on your parenting and wondering if you’d do it all again in exactly the same way. Time provides insight and often, important lessons.  I’m pleased to introduce my new friend, Sharron Cosby. She tells her story with transparency, as she looks back on her life as Mom. You may want to take a moment to learn from her story – and change yours while there’s still time.

by Sharron Cosby

A friend recently asked, “If you were granted a do-over with your children, what would you do differently?”

My first response, albeit unkind, was, “Probably not have any!” I quickly let her know I was joking, but there were days when the thought played dodge ball in my mind.

The question was posed after I shared my story of our addicted son. The heartaches our family suffered wreaked havoc on me spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally. I feel like I have PTSD. Even now, with five years clean, his arriving late for dinner or coming into our home when we’re away jerks my memories back to the dark days of his active addiction.

I’ve often wondered what I’d do if a time machine appeared and afforded a second chance at child rearing. Here are a few things I want to believe I’d change:

  • Employment outside our home. If I had the freedom to choose, I wouldn’t work outside the home. As our children got older, my presence in the afternoon was needed. The three-hour gap between school dismissal and the work-whistle blowing left space for mischief— our home became the shenanigans gathering place. I don’t think it would have been had I been at home. At the very least, I would have worked part-time.
  • First things first. Each of our three children had their own vehicles. They had to work to pay for insurance and gas. Anything left over was fun money. Instead of focusing on earning money, their first focus should have been school. Our daughters worked in restaurants with college-aged kids. They participated in activities inappropriate for their teen years, but since they worked together, they were part of the crowd.
  • Delay cars for kids. Cars aren’t a necessity if they’re not working. Of course then, I couldn’t work because they would need transportation. Already my resolve is fading. The responsibility to haul kids around isn’t alluring.
  • Meet their friends’ parents. I allowed our children to stay overnight at friends’ homes without ever meeting the parents. I had no idea what kind of values and standards they had. They probably wondered the same about me.
  • Ask the hard questions. I didn’t ask because I was afraid of the answers. In my heart of hearts, I knew there were problems, but I hoped by denying them they would go away. Or at least not be as bad as I envisioned.
  • Work on my issues. I realize now, I parented out of my own hurts and hang-ups. My white picket fence dream of a perfect family drove my actions and inactions. I was unwilling to face my own inadequacies, side stepping them in hopes our family’s ship would right itself.

As I pondered a do-over, I came to the conclusion that even if I had made these changes I wasn’t guaranteed a different outcome. I could have been Mother of the Year, cooking, cleaning and chauffeuring kids all over town, but at the end of the day, my children had choices to make, independent of me. Would they still make the same heartbreaking choices? I don’t know.

One thing I do know is that I loved them and had their best interests at heart. Their father and I taught them to love God, their family and friends. They were never unloved. There were days I didn’t like them, but they were always loved—and they knew it.

I don’t need a time machine to provide me with a do-over. God’s Word tells me, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning.” Lamentations 3:22-23a NIV.

Every day I have fresh opportunities to know Him deeply, to love unconditionally and to extend grace. I’m still their mom. They’re still my kids. There’s always tomorrow.

 

 

Sharron CosbySharron Cosby: With southern charm and a hopeFULL heart, author/speaker Sharron Cosby reaches out to families desperate for an anchor in their storms. Read her story in Praying for Your Addicted Loved One: 90 in 90 available on Amazon.

Podcast: The Power of Commitment

Internet Radio

Listen to Deb’s latest podcast with Susie Larson of Faith Radio. Here’s the link:

THE POWER OF COMMITMENT If you don’t listen to Susie you are missing out! Here’s the info to tuning in regularly:

Live the Promise with Susie Larson can be heard on Faith Radio online at the following times (CT):

Weekdays at 3:00 pm and 11:00 pm
Saturdays at 2:00 pm and 12:00 am

I Choose You Today, Ron!


DeArmond-27Happy Birthday to my sweet husband, Ron.
Nearly five decades of Godly wisdom resides in this man. As many noted today on his Facebook page, he is a great guy and gives the best father hugs ever. Being married to me for forty years has been a workout. It’s not always been easy, but it’s always been worth the effort. His commitment, love, and loyalty has never faded. Neither has his pursuit of me. He’s good at this one, me, not so much. So today, I wanted to acknowledge a side of Ron many have never experienced. It’s from my book, I Choose You Today: 31 Choices to Make Love Last.

————————————————————————————–

Another business trip, another city. The worst part of that first day on the road is taking my clothes out of the suitcase, hanging them up and pressing those that didn’t fare well in the travel process. I had just mentioned to my husband, Ron, that morning how much I dreaded that task— sometimes twice a week, as I moved between client locations.

And now, as I pulled the as advertised no-wrinkle blouse from my bag, an envelope fluttered to the floor. I fetched it from the carpet as I threw the blouse in the ironing pile.

Ron’s handwriting: Mag. His pet name made me smile immediately. I sank down on the foot of the bed and turned the envelope over. “I love you” was written across the sealed flap.

A sweet note inside reminded me of his love for me, how he much he missed me every second I was gone, and dreaded the empty side of the bed. A little flirting, a little prayer for my upcoming week. A sweet surprise, but not a first. Ron has pursued me consistently in the last 38 years.

He’s the romantic; I’m pragmatic. He can recall the date of our first kiss, never forgets an anniversary or special occasion. He has created elaborate romantic surprises for me over the years, capturing my heart again and again.

I could take a page from his book. I’ve been guilty sometimes of saying to him the morning of his birthday, “I didn’t get you a card. Will a kiss do?”

I should be better at this. I grew up in a home where everyday my father said to my mom, “Dottie, did I tell you today I love you?” Her response was always the same: “Yes, but you can tell me again.” They were perfect together. Mom would often appear annoyed when Dad (at age 75) would say to the waiter, “Hey there, bud, look around. The most beautiful girl in the room is with me tonight.” She said it embarrassed her terribly. Truthfully, she loved every moment of his pursuit.

That envelope got me to thinking about the impact Ron’s pursuit made on me. Knowing he always has me at the forefront of his thoughts and affections have created a great confidence, not only in our relationship, but also for me, personally. I’m not 25 anymore, but he still sees me as beautiful; he is still attracted to me. I trust his heart (if not always his eyes!), but it’s his heart he uses when he looks at me. I never wonder whether or not he truly loves me, needs me, and wants me. His pursuit speaks volumes and it draws me to him time after time.

Doesn’t he deserve the same from me? That confidence that comes from being relentlessly pursued? He owns my heart; he knows it. But I want him to feel it. I want him to experience the same thing, the same confidence, and the same assurance that my affection and attraction to him have not only remained steady, but they’ve grown over the years.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” Eph. 5:25 (NIV). I know this is addressed to husbands, but Romans 8:29a says, “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son,” (NLT). God is in relentless pursuit of those He loves. He sent Jesus to pursue us and I am called to follow His lead—to pursue those I love.

So what does it mean to engage in a pursuit? Merriam-Webster defines it like this: to follow and try to catch or capture (someone or something) for usually a long distance or time. I want to capture my someone’s heart for a very long time. I want to be in love with Ron every day I draw breath.

I will admit, it doesn’t come naturally for me. I’m a list maker, a busy girl, and I’m not necessarily wired for pursuit. So it’s a choice I want to make on a regular basis—even if I have to plan it. Spontaneity is overrated anyway.

I find him hard to resist when he’s chasing my heart. I’m betting I can create a major distraction when I’m in full pursuit.

So . . . what will you choose?

Ron DeArmond, I choose you!

 

Three Tips for Great Family Getaways

vacationA recent girl’s night out included some shared appetizers, cool beverages and tons of conversation. It had been a while since this group had all been together and we had a lot of catching up to do.

Eventually the conversation focused on “what I did for summer vacation.” A big birthday and significant anniversary had been celebrated with a trip to Portland. An upcoming New York weekend, including a Broadway show, was discussed. And two shared their version of the Chevy Chase “Family Vacation.” You know the ones: rock-hard beds in tiny shared quarters where you learn way too much about one another. The kayak river trip in a mostly dried up creek, or the beach trip that featured six straight days of rain. People can get cross with the circumstances—and with one another.

We laughed till we cried, but later I thought about the tradition of family vacations. We laugh at Clark Griswold’s family because we’ve most likely been there at some point. All that togetherness can be a challenge.

Vacations with little ones can be stressful; they’re away from the familiar, routines are disrupted, and the items that comfort them are unavailable. Our own summer getaways when our boys were young were spent in the 113 degree heat of Palm Springs at the Oasis Water Park and Resort. Sounds swanky, right? In the winter, we’d have paid a premium price. But in July, $99 a night bought us a two bedroom condo with maid service and daily water park passes for the entire family. Living big, I tell you.

We continued the tradition as our sons became adults, adding their wives and little boys as they appeared on the scene.  We’ve enjoyed snowy mountains at Christmas, Florida’s DisneyWorld, and the many attractions of Southern California. Each trip offered a challenge or two, but we enjoyed them and recall them fondly. It’s been two years since our last trip, and we’ve added four more little boys to the mix in that time, but we look forward to the next opportunity to do it again.

Traveling with adult children is a very different experience and requires a process that varies from when they were little. And even though the traditional summer vacation season is drawing to a close, three day weekends and trips for the holidays are year round. We’ve gained some insights over the years, so  I’m sharing some ideas that surfaced as we’ve traveled together. Here are three tips we’ve discovered that can make a big difference.

  • Include EVERYONE in the planning process. You might be surprised to learn that your services as travel director and tour guide are not always welcome. You may prefer to hit the beach while others would rather see the museums or area theme parks. Let everyone weigh in; we all like to be heard. Does everyone have to do everything together everyday? Or is there room for a freestyle day when the group splits off to pursue varied interests? A break from all that togetherness can be a great bonus!
  • Clarify expectations. What are the financial arrangements? Will the cost be shared evenly across the family? What if one couple has three kids, and another has none? Will they pay the same for the lodging, rental car, and meals you prepare in your condo or cabin? Do the math well in advance so everyone knows what to expect. And what about chores? If you’re in a rental home, consider creating a plan. Rotate cooking, clean up and trash duty. Discuss it before plans are made so no one is surprised. A family meeting to discuss the details will make a big difference.
  • Be flexible. The cabin might be a bit musty, hikes gets rained out, and rental cars break down on occasion. Know going in this stuff happens, and if it does, make the best of it. Air out the cabin, do a rainy day movie marathon, and tell Hertz you expect a big upgrade in the replacement vehicle. Remember the unofficial beatitude: Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not break!

The “vacation” might simply be a family visit to celebrate the holidays together. Will the grandparents be expected to be on-call babysitters? We usually offer a time to let the big kids have some time together while we enjoy our grandsons. Recently we split it up: the girls stayed in with the six little boys one night, and the guys were on duty the next. Again, communicating is key; make no assumptions.

Lastly, remember that one of the big benefits is the chance to be together, to enjoy one another’s company. It should be a feature of the vacay, not a cross to bear. Whether it’s a Thanksgiving weekend, a Christmas trip seeking sunshine, or a traditional summer vacation, a little pre-planning can make it one for the scrapbooks!