I’m six years old, tossing and turning in my bed, unable to sleep. Through my bedroom door I hear my parents moving around the flat, making last arrangements for the upcoming day. There are food supplies on the kitchen counter waiting to be packed and rucksacks with sleeping bags and hiking boots in the hallway.
We’re leaving early in the morning towards what will be our home for the next two or three weeks of summer – the cabin in the woods. There’s a six hour train journey ahead of us and afterwards thirty something kilometres to walk. There will be clearings and forests to cross and mountain peaks watching over us until we’ll reach our destination. Then there will be adventures every day and baked potatoes by the campfire and the most beautiful night sky. And all I want is for the night to pass faster so it can all begin.
Whenever I think about the happiest moments of my childhood this is where I always end up – the family holidays in the mountains. These are the fondest memories I have with my parents and it’s not so because of the amount of time we spent together (children experience time differently from adults anyway) or because of the beautiful location (although growing up in nature is one of the most wonderful things for a child).
Even as a child, I noticed that there seemed to be a metamorphosis taking place with my father each time we went there: from a man who was mostly stressed and upset and critical he turned into a happy, fun person you loved to be around with.
In addition to that, we did lots of things together: we cooked, we picked berries and mushrooms, we hiked the tallest peaks, we played and built little boats which we put on the river and followed them as the current carried them along.
There was this beautiful and exciting world around me and the best part was discovering and exploring it with my parents, without feeling the pressure to do things a certain way or having to achieve something.
I was too young to understand it then, but those were moments when my parents could be fully present and thanks to that that, we could bond and have meaningful experiences together. Those were moments of joy and of living life fully.
And that’s what matters when we talk about spending quality time together as a family. We don’t need to go to some far away, expensive place to live life this way. It can be in a park nearby, at a museum or in our own home as long as we remember to be cherish that time together and be present.
These moments of connection and intimacy remain with us as we grow older and are the ones that count the most. They are also among the top things people on their deathbed regret not doing. So let’s do it more and let’s do it often.