Menifee Mom: Family Time Can Have Many Meanings

By Karen Thomas

This week I am reminded of the value of friendships. Not just friendships for our kids, but for ourselves as well.

We have never lived near relatives and while we would love to have family around, we have rather enjoyed spending most of our free time with just each other: Me, my husband, and our kids.

This summer, however, has been different. On a few occasions, we've gone to the beach with several other families and their kids. Recently, we even ventured on a multi-day campout at Kern River with a large group of families. Through these experiences, I've discovered that there are many benefits to sharing vacations and outings with other families.

Benefit #1: Your kids whine and complain a whole lot less! I can't tell you how many "fun outings" have been ruined by one kid in a bad mood. All parents know the formula: Bad mood=whining=unhappy parents=unhappy family. We could be guaranteed hearing things like, "It's too hot! Why did we have to come?" or "I hate the sand. You should have let me stay home," or "There's too many bugs....I'm just going to sit in the car the whole weekend!" (Yes, one tried that. It didn't work out so well for her.) I don't know if having other kids around brings distractions from the issues or what, but I've noticed the complaining is almost non-existent when we're in a group.

Benefit #2: The kids actually toughen up and do things they normally wouldn't. This is a rare case of positive peer pressure. On our campout, instead of freaking out about the less than clean conditions of the water, the smelly bathrooms, or the swiftness of the current, my girls just went for it and had fun like everyone else. If it was just us, I guarantee we would have heard, "Ooh, gross! I'm not going in there!" or "I'll be swept away by the river and die!"

Benefit #3: Getting a break from siblings. I love my girls to play together and want them to be the best of friends, but sometimes a kid just needs a break. They enjoyed being with friends and their friends got to know their sisters better. Without even knowing it, their bond was strengthened as they enjoyed experiences together without the sibling stress.

Benefit #4: Getting a break from the kids. All moms enjoy a chance to engage in adult conversation. With the kids occupied AND happy, moms get a break too!

Benefit #5: Finding that good friends can be just as valuable as family. Our kids benefit from the positive influences other adults can have on them, especially when aunts and uncles don't live nearby. It never hurts for them to have other trusted adults to turn to.

I've come to understand better that someone doesn't have to be related by blood or marriage to be considered "family." What really matters is that people care for each other and support each other. In the end, that's what it means to be a family.

Most of all, it's just a whole lot of fun to hang out with friends. At the end of our campout, one of my kids announced, "I want to come here again!" And just to be sure we understood, she clarified, "But we have to come with everybody, not just our family." We agreed. In the end, it felt like an actual family reunion that needs to be repeated.

I'm not saying you shouldn't have family only time, but it's good to branch out. You just might find that you start referring to others as your "Menifee Family."

Karen Thomas is a stay at home mom of four daughters, has been on the PTA board at her kids' school for four years, and is a volunteer at her church, in addition to her activities as a volunteer soccer referee, a piano teacher, and a runner. Her column will appear here every Thursday. Comments are welcome.


  1. I couldn't agree more with everything you said here. We have "family" just like that. My kids love them and they love my kids. It works out perfect.
    Thanks for reminding me how good I really do have it.