Family Time

We did it!

We managed to have in-person family time with our two adult children.

Those of you with empty nests and adult kids know this is no small task. We raise them to be independent adults—to fly the nest and function in the real world. And then they do. They get jobs and friends and partners and lives independent of us. Sometimes in another city or another country.

And then we miss them.

Marty and I have been wanting to do something special with our girls. A get-away. A family retreat. Just the four of us. But trust me, it is easier said than done.

With one daughter wrapping up her college career and elbows deep into coursework, job applications and interviews, and the other daughter establishing a career in a new city with a new company, getting away as a family is no easy task. Plop in a pandemic and it gets even more challenging.

Which makes this together time all the more precious.

Oh, how the tides have turned.

In high school, we had to require “mandatory family fun time” in order to force them to join us. Seriously, that is what we called it. Now they actually want to hang out with the us. How did we go from making them die of embarrassment in high school to “go ahead and sing Karaoke, Mom, it’s all good” as young adults? Perhaps it is because we pay for dinner. Or just maybe we really are cool! Okay, it might be partly because we rented a house near the beach. Hey, who cares? We’ll take it!

Marty and I are giddy about them joining us.

There’s just something about time away as a family, especially by the beach. At the beach, everything feels fresher. Bluer (I admittedly have a thing for “ocean blue”). Happier. Time stands still and we go unplugged. We ditch the electronics (even the kids do—by choice) and the stressors. No multitasking. No distractions, except for the occasional dolphin surfacing or unusual character in an electric lime green Speedo and mullet strutting by.

The beach is one of those places to just be.

To watch toddlers dig in the warm sand. To listen to kids of all ages splashing and giggling, spouting the salty water and tossing footballs. To let the glittery water mesmerize as the waves roll in, breaking into a bubbly foam just before reaching shore. And breathe in the fragrance of saltwater mixing with coconut sunscreen.

Laughter comes easier at the beach. So does relaxed conversation.

It’s where we get reacquainted with our kids. And them with us.

“When did you guys know the other was ‘the one’ for you?”
“Dad, did you actually wear Zubaz?”
“Mom, how could you date a guy who wore Zubaz?”
“Did you always plan on having just two kids?”
“Would you ever consider retiring here in Florida?”

This week, we talked about careers, life’s left turns, greatest joys, fun memories, and fashion fails (like Zubaz and that unfortunate lime green Speedo). We celebrated milestones and pondered both the past and what the future may hold.

Family time is not something we take for granted. But it is something we will continue to be intentional about creating in the future. While the beach is certainly a bonus, it is not a requirement. Family time can be a FaceTime check-in or a trip to the Dairy Queen. A Sunday brunch, baking cookies or a Scrabble game—whatever brings the family together.

From someone who is in the next season of parenting, I can tell you that you’ll never regret the extra time spent with your kids. Even though in the moment, it can be exhausting. Isn’t it surprising how we can all live under the same roof, yet not feel fully connected? Yes, life’s commitments have a way of undermining those good intentions. So whether your kids are still a “captive audience” living at home, or launching into life after high school, or out living their adult lives, find little ways to create some “mandatory family fun time” when you can.

Kelly Radi is the author of Out to Sea: A Parents’ Survival Guide to the Freshman Voyage. It is the go-to guide for parents as they prepare to launch their children into life after high school.

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