A few years ago, I defended Bill Clinton when critics complained about his plans for an extended summer vacation. Now, the carping classes are chasing George W. Bush -- so here I go again.

The standard argument for a vacation is that it gives us a chance to relax, blow off steam, recharge our batteries. But even more important, a break proves that life isn't about us. The world runs fine when we're away from work or home. The earth continues to roll around the sun. And if we do it right, we can learn that true joy lies in bringing happiness to others.

For a parent, that means doing cannonballs off the diving board, wearing funny hats in public places, trying to speak with a teenager without benefit of an interpreter, or getting to sit around with your mate, chatting about little things while water scrubs the sands, or birds dart through the trees.

When victorious generals led parades through imperial Rome, their slaves would stand beside them, whispering: "Sic transit Gloria mundi" -- roughly translated as, don't let this go to your head; it won't last. I have a wife and kids to do that for me. So does George W. Bush. And he'll be a better man, and president, for having spent a few days away from this crazy town.