My wife and two boys (ages 3 and 18 months) recently took a short family vacation to Branson, Missouri. We had a blast! This was our first real family vacation since our oldest boy was born. I learned a valuable lesson while on this trip. I had to learn to experience fun differently. Before children, my wife and I could go to places like Silver Dollar City (SDC) and go crazy riding roller coasters and water rides. We could stay in our hotel and watch movies, take a dip in the pool to cool off, or relax in the hot tub with no worries. Well, all these experiences are not the same when you are a parent. We pretty much stayed in the kiddie section at SDC. We swam everyday but most of our time in the pool was spent watching the kiddos. Even when we were relaxing in the hotel room we were tending to kids. But we still had so much fun!
Although I don't agree with the common thought that parents should center their lives around their children, I do think that parents have to learn to enjoy watching their children enjoy life. That is exactly what we did. Sure there were times my wife and I wished we could get away for bit by ourselves (and we were able to a couple of times because of other family members present willing to watch the kids), but our hearts smiled continuously as we watched our children play in the hotel pool or ride the train at SDC or play with their cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents. My children had so many wonderful first experiences...I wouldn't have missed it for the world!
One final story: At one point during our family vacation, I found myself having to discipline my 3 yr old for misbehavior. I briefly caught myself thinking, "Here we are taking time out of our day and money out of our pockets to spend some quality time as a family, but instead I am having to tend to a screaming child." This thought was short-lived, because I very quickly began to think to myself, "You know what? Even though there are moments like this where some form of discipline is required, these kids need to have experiences like the ones they have had this week." I felt like my sons and I grew so much closer during our time at Branson, even though they had to sit in time-out on occasion.
So next time you find yourself feeling a little robbed because you are having to give up your personal time and money for your children. Try to remember that you are facilitating important experiences in their lives; and you being a part of that will help you and your children grow closer together. You can't put a price tag on building your relationship with your children.
Good luck and God bless you in your parenting endeavors.