Husband & Wife Articles


 

An “Extended” Family Vacation

Put away the feuds and prepare for relational healing

By Ryan Verret

There is good news for people who care about the renewal of family life in our nation, namely the rise of “multigenerational travel.” With summer vacations approaching, many people are choosing to change the annual “me time” into “us time.”

Multigenerational travel involves not only a mom and dad with their own children, but includes also nieces, nephews, parents, and in-laws. If you do an online search about the topic of multigenerational travels, you will find some very encouraging blogs and information about how to make these experiences great for everyone. The various articles emphasize, along with ideal destinations and tips for road-trips, the choices that foster interpersonal relational healing. The bottom line is basic Christian charity, as you overcome obstacles of sibling rivalries, religious differences, out-of-control children, and overanxious grandparents.

With so many broken families and wounded relationships, one might wonder if this is really possible? My extended family bears some of the marks so common to American families, such as divorce, yet we find it more helpful to focus on the positive things that we should bring along on our trip together.

How can your family vacation be an opportunity for grace, healing, and an experience of the family as the face of our Father in heaven? The main ingredients needed for a positive multigenerational vacation are commitment, patience, and realistic expectations.

Family is not something you can just show up for. Spending more than one day with extended family members will try your patience, but realistic expectations help insofar as you don’t expect Uncle Buzz to flip a switch and become a kind, patient man who drinks temperately as soon as he hits the road. It helps if you have spent time with your extended family outside of the normal holiday gatherings. Intentionality is required to build, or rebuild, friendships within our own family, and it is well worth it. When trust has been established, friendship is one of the most effective forms of evangelization.

This past weekend, our family went to the beach with my entire extended family—my parents, brothers, in-laws, nieces and nephews. It was just a five-hour drive from home for most of us, and the accommodations (an older, large home we rented for the weekend) were modest. This was all intentional so that we could again focus on our family. This vacation presented its challenges to each of us, but it helped us to understand that family is a gift at every age. What we saw in this particular trip was an invitation for us not to just think about what we wanted to do during our precious days away from the daily routine of work. Rather, we realized that God wanted us to experience his healing presence and a deeper unity among our extended family.

Ultimately, our brief vacation was a gift that we will continue to unpack over the years as we deepen in our appreciation of the bonds between family members. Relationships grow best when extended families spend leisure time together. Think of the families that you know that have strong intergenerational ties; these families and marriages have persevered through many challenges, and even great tragedies, because they prioritize their relationships. Through our blessed vacation, I was reminded of the promise of the Lord: “I will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children back to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6). I believe our family experienced hearts being turned to each other and a healing experience of deepening patience and commitment.

During this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has issued a challenge to families to show healing mercy. Of course, this call goes beyond just this one year! Each day we are reminded that the sacrifices of patience and commitment are the doorways of reconciliation and healing for our entire families.

“Mercy touches, it gets involved, it gets caught up with others, it gets personal,” Pope Francis said recently to a group gathered in Rome.

Indeed, mercy surprised me and abounded on our intergenerational vacation and we are so grateful for the gift of that time together. I encourage you to bring patience, commitment, realistic expectations, and your personal witness to the love of Christ on your family vacation this year. If it has been some time since your extended family has spent quality time together, consider this an invitation to start a new family tradition.

Ryan Verret, with his wife Mary-Rose, founded the Witness to Love apostolate, and together they wrote Witness to Love: How to Help the Next Generation Build Marriages that Survive and Thrive. They speak on issues of fertility, in vitro fertilization, marriage, natural family planning, and medical ethics. They live in the heart of Louisiana Cajun country with their three children, and Number 4 due later this year.