Playing Hooky as a Family: The healing power of a break

For years my favorite movie of all time was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I loved the idea that you could steal a day away like that. That you could have a day where there were no rules or obligations, just fun. Then, in the spring of my senior year of high school, I got “spring fever” in a big way. I hung out on the front lawn of the school, found any excuse to have fun, and, yes, even skipped some classes. It was wonderful! And each spring, as the weather gets warmer, I feel a little itch to relive that spring. I have fantasies of dropping everything and playing hooky for a day. Well this year, my husband and I made it happen and it was AWESOME!

As we all know, life can get super busy when we are trying to balance responsibilities at work, activities for our children, the needs of our significant others, obligations at home, and time with friends and family. It is all important stuff and a lot of it is good, but it can also get overwhelming and my husband and I have both been in a state of overwhelm. So when he asked what I wanted to do for Mother’s Day I said that I wanted to go to the beach as a family. He tried to convince me that maybe a day without kids and husband would be more to my liking, but I insisted. I insisted because I knew that while my day off to myself would be nice, I would come back to a tired and stressed husband and I wanted us both to experience some rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. I was convinced that both of us benefitting would help to make the benefits last longer and I was right.

So on Sunday morning, instead of getting dressed up for a fancy brunch or my leaving the house to go be alone, we packed a picnic and our beach bag and headed out the door, grabbing breakfast on the road. We drove for an hour and a half and arrived in what felt like another world. All four of us had a wonderful time splashing in the water, looking for shells, flying a kite, digging in the sand, lying on the beach blanket, and picnicking. It was five hours of rest and relaxation and it was wonderful.

kite beach

As we trekked back through the woods we played the “raise your hand” game. “Raise your hand if you had a good day.” “Raise your hand if you enjoyed the picnic.” “Raise your hand if you loved splashing each other.” As we each came up with statements to call out, we laughed and enjoyed the feeling of relaxation that had taken over our family unit.

It was a wonderful day, full of fun, but what was even more important was that we all did it together. By playing hooky as a family, leaving behind meal planning and food shopping and homework and house cleaning and other chores, we shared the experience and we shared the relaxation. A lot of times we forget that our stress and tension overflows onto our family members. I am convinced that if I had gone off by myself I would have had a wonderful, restful day, but then I would have come back to the same dynamics and exhaustion, and the benefits would have disappeared almost instantly. Instead, by enjoying the break together, it was like we all got to hit the restart button and this week I have really seen the benefits of that. There has been less bickering among the boys, my patience has lasted much longer, and all those chores? Somehow they got done and it didn’t even feel like a burden.


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