How My Daughter Meridith Forced Me Into Enjoying Vacations

I think the last vacation I enjoyed was when I was 14. We went to a lake in Minnesota (there are 10,000 to choose from) and spent four days. It was great and short and I had a blast.

After that I went to school and college and got a job and then found out a really sad fact: I was now in charge of paying for my vacations. I now understood why my dad frowned through most of the vacations I remember- there was a little taxi meter click-click clicking away inside his head calculating how much everything cost and balancing it against the costs of all the other things that cost money- food, housing, car repair, clothing, children- I now see why the pressure got too much for him and we stopped vacations altogether.

Now as an adult and the one in charge of finances (BTW- I am not good at all at this) it took ten years of marriage and a dose of guilt before I took the family in our station wagon to …a lake in Minnesota (we picked a different one). My family loved it and I’m glad we did it- and kept doing it. But the truth was, I never really did enjoy them. You see I kept calculating the costs, and expenses and running them against all my other really necessary life expenses. Only I really understood how close to the bone these trips were and just how close a line I ran between credit cards and creditors and the real need to save money.

Sound familiar? It’s a hard balance to be the dad who provides for a future while still experiencing the present.

Which leads me to the motherload of Dad Budget Crisis- My daughter Meridith was crowned Miss South Dakota and was to travel to Atlantic City to compete from the Miss America title.

I am ashamed to say that while everyone was jumping around and excited, I was staring off into space watching the meter spin like a high-speed fan.

(for the uninitiated, one of the first dresses my daughter wore cost $1,200. In the Miss America Pageant, the dresses, and there were many, cost between $500 and $10,000).

My first thought was “This will cost $10,000!!”. I was wrong- it wound up costing double that.

But good news was to come my way from an old friend of mine, who I believe God Himself used to speak a little wisdom into my shell-shocked brain:

“Jeff, I wonder how many dads in South Dakota would be happy to pay ten thousand dollars to say their daughter was Miss South Dakota?”

Lesson: The fears I had were blinding me to the blessings I received.

Then I also found out just how generous even random strangers can be. At the end of the day, we got a lot of donations totaling ten thousand dollars. Dresses were donated, letters and e-mails and checks came in by the hundreds.

Lesson: People really did care and celebrate my daughter’s success- what couldn’t I?

So I took a really, really deep breath and tried my hardest to enjoy a vacation. I took a lot of pictures. I got involved in a silly contest with other pageant dads (Runner-up, thank you very much!) and decided that there would be a time to pay for all of this, but for now, I needed to really celebrate some of the tremendous gifts I’ve been given- like some amazing daughters.

Libby and I and the daughters had a great time that week, and best of all, I’ve been going on vacations, real vacations, ever since.

Thanks, Meridith!