One summer my plans for the perfect peaceful family vacation were altered when our two-year-old daughter unwittingly smashed a $300 cowboy statue. After buying the statue, we decided to go cool off at a water park. “I’ll take care of the kids,” I told my wife, “If you’ll go get us some ice cream.” I was still fuming about that statue, wondering if I should take it out of my daughter’s allowance once she is old enough. In the children’s section of the waterpark were three shallow kids’ pools, one at the top, one at the bottom and one in between. Each was surrounded by white rocks and all were connected by slides. “Stephen,” I said to my eldest, “you take Rachael and Jeffrey to the top pool and send them down the slide. I’ll catch ‘em.” “Okay,” he said. Stephen was four.
Standing in the bottom pool, I watched my three little ones going hand in hand up the sidewalk. When they arrived at the top pool I hollered, “Alright, let her go.” Stephen picked Rachael up and let her go—down the wrong slide! I lunged from the pool, ran over the rocks and leaped to catch her. She was grinning from ear to ear. The lifeguard was shouting, “Hey, you there, stay off the rocks.” “Daddy, funny,” Rachael said. I didn’t think it was funny at all. Looking up, I noticed that Stephen was inserting his little brother in the other slide. The wrong slide. “No, Stephen!” I yelled. He let him go. Down came Jeffrey, watching the sky race by. I splashed my way from the middle pool, and then climbed over the rocks again. “HEY!” screamed the lifeguard, “DON’T RUN ON THE ROCKS!” I was fuming as I crashed into the bottom pool. Jeffrey was already one foot under, his wide eyes watching as I frantically pulled him out. “Are you okay?” He coughed twice, spluttered, and smiled as if to say, “What’s all the fuss, Dad? It’s the holidays!”
Some of us take longer than others to absorb the truth. In my case, it didn’t sink in until we were huddled together on my beach towel and I realized who I set aside this vacation for. It wasn’t my kids or my wife. It was all about me. All these years later I still get cranky at times. Without fail, my crankiness comes when I focus on myself. My hurts. My needs. And we’re never as empty as when we’re full of ourselves. 2 Corinthians 10:24 reminds us not to seek our own good, but the good of our neighbour, and I think our children too. It’s the recipe for many things, including a great vacation.
Meanwhile back at the waterslide, my wife finally arrived with the ice cream. “How did it go?” she asked. “Not so good,” I said, “but it’s about to get better.” And then she began to laugh. Which was easy for someone who watched the whole spectacle from the safety of an ice cream stand