Traveling with kids is like giving birth. As time passes you forget about the pain involved and mostly focus on the good stuff. I would be lying if I told you travelling with kids is easy. It ain’t all rainbows and unicorns farts y’all! In fact it’s a trip, not a vacation. I am certainly not lounging by a pool with a steady stream of cocktails. When we travel with kids we all take turns having meltdowns and giving ourselves time outs. It’s even worse when I road trip without my husband. I am officially outnumbered and am without my emotional reprieve when the going gets tough. On one trip I actually called my husband in tears just because I needed to unload some of the emotional baggage that had accumulated. Yup, traveling with kids can be hard.
The reality of traveling with kids is that you can often feel like someone is always needing something and usually they’re needing it from mom, not dad. Mom, I’m hungry! Mom, I have to go potty! Mom, where are my earbuds! Mom, the sun is shining too bright and I can’t see my movie. Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom!! Feet hurt, someone is cold because they didn’t bring the jacket you told them to, someone else has a headache because they wear sunglasses or drink enough water after you reminded them too. Someone has to poop RIGHT NOW! I have heard it all.
Oftentimes I feel as if I am being pulled in several directions and my head begins to spin. This is often the case when I road trip without my hubby because this one woman show is doing it all. In addition to addressing everyone’s needs and answering their questions I am driving and navigating, planning our day, trying to put a stop to whiney moments or squabbles, packing/unpacking, making sure my kids are safe, and the list goes on. As a mom, it is hard to turn that part of our brain off and just go with it. There are times when it really takes a conscious effort on my part. Throw in my anxiety and sometimes my head feels like it is going to explode from the pressure. After a long day everyone’s patience can be worn thin and you all need a timeout. Give the kids a pool, an iPad, a TV, or a park while you throw in your earbuds, read a book, and relax with a glass of wine (if you can). When that feeling of being pulled in a million directions creeps in sometimes you have to try to block out the noise and let it go.
This confession may make some of you wonder why I do this in the first place. Saturday morning was the perfect example of why. I sat there at my computer scrolling through my Instagram account when Lucas looked over my shoulder. On the screen in front of us was a grid of last summer’s adventures. Images of forests, our night at the beach in an Airstream trailer, the Oregon coast, the Astoria farmer’s market, and the Goonies museum trailed past our eyes when he commented, “That was probably the best summer I’ve ever had. Next summer will probably be the second best.” When I asked him why, his response was in his typical simple and matter of fact tone, “Well because we went to the beach, we stayed in that shiny silver trailer, we ate that Irish restaurant, we saw the Goonies, and we met that duck.” I reminded him of our cruise and that sealed the deal, “Yup, best summer ever.” That! That right there is why we travel. Why I insist on taking them to the most random yet magical destinations in spite of the travelling stresses.
I share these struggles and memories because it is the reality of travel, both the good and the bad. Don’t let the crazy times intimidate you because they are normal. They’re kids and they are out of their daily routine in a new place. This had its benefits and its set backs. But if you have any takeaway from my experiences I hope that you understand you are not alone, we have all been there with our kids when we travel. These times, like the rest of life are messy, but they are good.
It’s these moments after the trip while we look at photos. It’s seeing new places and returning to favorites. It’s that starstruck feeling afterward from seeing indescribable beauty in real life and not from a screen. It’s learning geography in the best way possible: in real life, not a map or GPS. And it’s having a lifelong connection to those places. As I looked at all of our memories on in front of us and heard my son talk about all the joy he finds in these trips I knew that like childbirth, the pain is worth it. What you are left with is a gift. It’s not something tangible like a baby, but it is absolutely something that still brings a smile to your face and opens up a world you never knew existed. I hope these memories, this sense of wonder and joy, sustain both my kids throughout their lives when things feel hopeless or challenging. May these moments contain the special magic only the nostalgia of childhood brings. I pray it helps them connect to Earth so that they will learn to appreciate, and be stewards of all things natural. When that movie reel of memories play in their heads I want all these snippets their memories have captured to bring a smile to their faces and give them the confirmation that they have lived an awesome life.
Sometimes this job presents itself with a an opportunity to create something special. A close friend of our family had found out his dad was terminally ill with little time left. A devastating situation no matter which way you look at it. The entire family including, his wife’s parents came together to not only support one another, but to help in any way possible. Shifts for home care and childcare were rotated while our friends delicately balanced their work schedules and crazy commutes. It was not an easy situation on top of the already heavy emotional toll of it all. One of their first priorities was family portraits while Dad was still able to venture outside for small trips. They knew time was limited and this would sadly be last their last opportunity. Our friends also knew that I had lost my dad the month before and would understand not only the emotional weight of the situation, but also their desire for family portraits. For me it was a gift to be able to provide them with these final images.