Sunday, January 18, 2009

our Melbourne Adventure

Family traditions can be helpful things. They draw a family together with ties of familiarity and fun.

Year after year, they create happy memories. They give children the rare experience of their parents' undivided and extended attention. They help define a family culture, a sense that this is my family and this is how we do things. They bind a family together, provide a feeling of stability and belonging, and are a wonderful opportunity for joy.

I wouldn't elevate family traditions to any great place in the eternal scheme of things, or place burdens on parents to create certain kinds of annual celebrations, as I feel Christians are sometimes prone to do, but I do think they can be a great blessing. And how privileged we are to live in a place and time when we can give some of our annual relaxation (a privilege in itself) simply to enjoying one another as a family!

One of our annual family traditions is our Melbourne Adventure. This came about when we discovered through bitter experience one year just how expensive a holiday by the beach can be! Steve is no fan of tents, after a school camping expedition which managed to combine one boy's hypothermia with another boy's severe sunburn (don't ask me how!), and you know how pricy holiday houses or cabins can be.

So after my parents spoil the kids and me with an annual trip to Apollo Bay while Steve has some down time at home, we devote 10 days of Steve's anual leave to our Melbourne Adventure: no one else, just our family. Every adult and child gets to choose a day's expedition, we go to the supermarket and stock up on cans of drink and chips (much cheaper than buying food when you're out!), I make sandwiches, we collect our discount vouchers, and off we go!

Steve always chooses a morning at Carlton footy training. I choose a day exploring the city and the art gallery, at the botanic gardens, or on a Yarra River cruise. Lizzy loves water slides, and is rejoicing in yet another Christmas kinder raffle win: a free pass to a water park nearby. Ben always chooses the science musem, Thomas the zoo or the museum, and Andrew's too little to choose yet, but we chose Puffing Billy for him this year ... until Steve got sick.

We've put off the kids' chosen days until Steve is well enough to come along, and I've done my best to keep up the annual tradition with help from grandparents. So far, we've:

explored the Botanic Gardens together;

come face to face with penguins, fish, stingrays and sharks at the Melbourne Aquarium;

and learnt to row at the Fairfield Boathouse.

I'd love to hear about your family traditions.


Lara said...

Sounds fantastic! I love Melbourne!

Our tradition was to spend a week in the Blue Mountains every winter. We stayed in a cottage at a place called Federation Gardens with a wood-burning stove, and we'd spend the week relaxing, bush-walking and exploring second-hand book stores. I remember when we'd get out of the car when we arrived and smell the cold and the woodsmoke - so beautiful! I miss that.

Jean said...

Sounds wonderful. I love the "smell of cold", as you put it.

Valori said...

Well, this is a U.S. tradition, of course, but I'll share it with you since we just practiced this one a couple of weeks ago. My husband is originally from New York City, so he still has family there, which makes it a LOT cheaper to visit. We usually go up between Christmas and New Years and just act like New Yorkers -- eat bagels, New York pizza, black and white cookies, Chinese food. We may do a variety of things, like catch a show or go to a sporting event, but there are always two traditional trips. One is to the real Little Italy in the Bronx on Arthur Avenue, with its Italian market filled with all kinds of interesting (and disgusting, if you ask me) meats. While there, we have to squeeze into a tiny cafe for capuccinos and hot chocolate (it's winter here, remember) and then buy some fresh cannolis and pastries at DeLillos bakery. (My husband's grandfather came over from Italy, so his family eats a lot of Italian food; we even have lasagna for Christmas dinner!) At least one day is spent in Manhattan walking through Central Park and down to Rockefeller Center, with about half of the rest of the U.S. :), to see the giant Cristmas tree and watch the ice skaters. Oh, and whenever we can, it's nice to have a breakfast at the 79th Street Diner.

Another regular tradition is Boys Day. Every Monday morning (my husband's day off since he is a pastor), the boys head out in the morning for an adventure. I pack up their lunches, and they either head to a museum or other sight in D.C., to the National Zoo, to their special mall, to the nature center for a hike . . . Now it is just the two younger boys, but what memories they all have! And the beauty of living in the Washington D.C. area is that the zoo, museums, and art galleries are FREE! Oh, and what about me? I'm sure you can think of something I could do with 3 or 4 free hours! Actually, I usually go to my pilates class and then either spend time with a friend or do some work that is easier to do without distractions :).

Jean said...

It's lovely to hear about an American version of family time, Valori! Funny how different things are (and colder!) - and yet the same in terms of enjoying things together as a family. Our museum is very cheap (free for our family), and our art gallery is free, but we do have to pay for the zoo!