The flight leaves at 6:00 a.m. You read that right: 6:00 in the morning. We are traveling on miles so you get what you pay for, as the old saying goes. I asked my mother if she thought I was projecting my airplane stress on my 1, 3 and 5 year old kids. I didn't actually wait to hear her response, because I was already starting to ramble about the possibilities of drama.
This stress of mine was clearly heading down the wrong path. It's a long way to the West Coast from the East Coast, but we are going to have to get there somehow, some way. I took a step back and came up with a whole new plan for the trip tomorrow. We fly a couple times a year. Some of the following things we've had success with in the past and some a new things we are going to try:
Forget the sugar. Every once in a while we suffer from amnesia and promise the kids a lollipop on the plane if they are good. This can never work out. Trust me. Okay, perhaps it can work out for 5% of the population, but the rest of us will be pulling the kids down from the overhead bins where they are now swinging after getting that lollipop they'd been impatiently awaiting for however many minutes. Bring snacks that chill them out rather than crank them up. Everyone around you will thank you, too.
Try a technology freeze before the trip. My kids haven't watched television in four days. They are pretty sure they are going to die if they don't watch something soon. I have found in the past that the most effective and silent television-watching occurs in the one to two hours after a long term of total technological deprivation. It's not to say that this will necessarily work, but it is worth a try.
Get rid of that energy. We joke that it would take less time at our airport if we actually walked from home since the terminal is so far from check in. This is a WONDERFUL opportunity for walking ("we're walking, we're walking"). Factor in the extra time, but count yourself successful if you reach your gate with children complaining from the long walk. As a parent, your work here is done.
Stick with tried and true. There are certain things that always hold my children's attention. Certain books will stop them in their tracks and keep them riveted for a solid 30 minutes. There is a certain cartoon that I am sure they can watch one billion times and still they will sit at attention. There is an allure to bringing new things as well, but be sure to have a balance of the new with the old in case the new fizzles instead of sizzles.
Remember that you can only control what you can control. I think that 16 to 20 months is the worst possible age range to travel on a plane. Chances are your child has recently learned how to walk and would love to practice RIGHT NOW in that teeny aisle on the plane. Do what you can to move around the plane by taking lots of walks, but sometimes you are just going to have to wrangle a cranky toddler. As a person who has put quite a few miles on her carry-on luggage before having kids, I always carried ear plugs. To be honest, I still carry ear plugs. When someone turns around to glare at the screaming baby who cannot be consoled, I think, "why didn't you buy a pair of dollar earplugs?" I'm pretty sure that on one trip, my sister Jen passed out ear plugs to the passengers around her in anticipation of angry stares regarding crying babies. Sometimes babies (toddlers, preschoolers, even parents) cry. The flight will eventually be over. Roll with the punches.
Do the best you can with what you've got. I've gotten into ridiculously long conversations with parents about traveling before naptime, during naptime, taking red eyes, etc. Only you know your child, and there is still a good chance that your child who acts a certain way every single day is going to act completely different on that plane. If your child sleeps in the car, you might want to bring his car seat. My pediatrician once recommended giving my kids Benadryl for a particularly long flight. I tried it out ahead of time and guess what? My kids are not even remotely moved by Benadryl. It was a sad moment, but good to know ahead of time.
Relax (as best you can) and let it all roll off of you. And share with us your great tips for traveling with toddlers and preschoolers. We can use all the tips we can get.
My workshop is in the basement. Many a day I put the baby down for a nap in the morning, and I head down the stairs to get some work done. I can print shirts with The Baby around, but I spend more time keeping him out of vats of ink than I do actually printing shirts. He also likes to speed up the dryer, which is not helpful in the least. The other two wander around the basement at will, moving from one adventure to the next. They really aren't a problem.
The other day I was slammed with work, and the boys asked if they could hang out with me in the basement. I was barely paying attention as I murmured an affirmative and I headed off around the corner.
The thing with my parenting is that it is nearly all audible. My children come by their mouths honestly, and they almost never stop talking. They literally talk all day long. When they do stop talking, I know it's time to make my presence known. This works for us. The combination of my excellent hearing (thanks, Mom, for never letting me go to those rock concerts that permanently damaged my husband's hearing) and their chattiness, crisis can be avoided 99% of the time.
The thing with audible parenting is that you should also LISTEN to what your children are saying. This is where I find myself faltering. Especially yesterday.
Nate: MOM. Dad's saws are here. There are tree (three).
K: (distracted) Nate, stay away from whatever you found. Don't touch Dad's stuff.
I kept working and never thought about it again. Well, until the next day when I walked down the stairs for some reason and this is what I saw.
Hmm. The set for a certain popular serial killer drama? Nope. Just my husband leaving his tools out for a job for another day. I called Derek.
K: Hi. You have all these SAWS on the ironing board.
D: I was trying to fix that WALL.
K: You are raising your voice at me?
D: I HAD TO FIX THE WALL.
K: You left a cornucopia of saws out for the kids to get into.
D: They were up.
K: On an ironing board?
D: It's high.
K: It also only requires about a half pound of pressure to knock over. I'm pretty sure both boys can see over the top of the ironing board. I wondered what Nate was talking about yesterday when he said he saw saws.
D: I'm sorry.
K: I have a tough enough time with these children without offering them their own weapons. Forget intent. Nate's clumsiness alone could have resulted in a lost limb.
D: I thought they were safe.
Safety is a relative concept. We had to take every single movable chair off of the first floor because The Baby has taken to climbing onto counter tops and throwing glasses and plates off. I got tired of glass shards, if you know what I mean. So I'm thinking that right about now I could use a little help in the safety department, at least with the big ticket items like saws. I don't think I'm asking too much.
Summer is upon us here in Washington D.C. I seem surprised every single year when the thermostat reaches 90 degrees and I'm not sure why.
Take your walk early in the day. It may be humid when you wake up but humid and 75 is much better than humid and 90. Get out of the house as quickly as possible after breakfast and head to the park or take a walk through the neighborhood. It will wake you up for the day and take the edge off of the kid's energy before it gets too hot to do anything else. Explore to your heart's content.
Do a cool art project. Lay out a piece of butcher paper on the ground in the driveway or out back and let the kids finger (or arm or foot) paint to their heart's content. When you are all done with your masterpiece, give everyone a chance under the hose. Even better, give everyone a chance to hose each OTHER off. This always results in a ridiculous amount of laughter in our house.
Take time out for an energizing snack. Frozen grapes or blueberries are such a treat when the weather is so hot that you feel like you can barely breathe. You can try this Gooey Tasty Dip Stuff if you want a little extra pick-me-up.
Put your kids in charge of the garden. Ethan and Nathan are out every evening when it has cooled down a little, helping to weed the vegetable beds and to pick the raspberries that have already arrived. Kids can learn about healthy fruits and vegetables, the importance of using organic practices to keep our food safe and how to be conscious of our water usage. I have Ethan working on a drip irrigation system as we speak, and I swear we will figure it out by the end of summer.
Go catch a movie. Movie expert Sandie Angulo Chen offers some tips for surviving summer movie mania. There are lots of options this summer. Check out free family movies showing all summer long or check in your area for outdoor movies playing for free in your town.
Let's hear your ideas for things for kids to do to survive the summer heat.
I was talking with a group of friends the other day about the latest stitches incident in our house. I believe it was the gushing head wound that was the result of one son throwing a train track piece at his brother. Someone mentioned that she was impressed that I was telling the story so calmly since it was so horrible. I told my friend (with girls) that this is my life and I have just figured out how to plod through and save up my hysteria for the really, really bad things if they happen.
Fast forward to last Friday. I was busy trying to get ready for a food and wine show. I was loading up the van with crates of clothing to sell as my kids wandered around somewhat aimlessly. Ethan was around the side of the house with Mason (or so I thought) and Nate was standing on the driver's seat turning absolutely every single lever on that he possibly could.
I had one eyeball on the driveway and one eyeball on the back of the van. I looked up to glare at a loud truck barreling down the road above the unenforceable 20 mile per hour speed limit sign on our dead end residential street. He wasn't going much faster but I have grown weary of diving into ditches off the street on walks down our usually deserted street.
Thirty seconds later I heard a yell on the street.
"Hey, buddy, STOP!"
I turned around in horror to see fifteen-month-old Mason standing at the top of the driveway in the street. He laughed and ran toward my neighbor. He was around the side of the house seconds before with his brother and then he was in the street. I ran up the driveway and snatched Mason from my neighbor's arms. I scolded him and turn to apologize to my neighbor.
"You shouldn't be sorry. You should be terrified."
Well, that's one way to tell me. I mumbled thanks and walked back down the hill. I looked at Ethan and he looked back at me. He's five. It's not really his job to watch his baby brother and for me to expect him to watch Mason is really not acceptable. I had done the math and decided I had three choices. I could strap him in his car seat (in 92 degrees), I could leave him in the house unattended until I finished or I could let Ethan watch him. Clearly I made the wrong choice.
The thing is, while I'm sure my neighbor was just as upset as I was, his judgment of my outward emotions was incorrect and completely wrong. If I freaked out every single time something horrible possibly could have happened to my children, I would have to be committed. I'm sorry I didn't SAY I was terrified and I'm sorry I didn't collapse in a puddle of tears like he thought I should. From here on out, Mason gets strapped into the car seat. Life is full of "but-for" lessons and I learned mine. That's enough emotion for me.
I was selling my wares at a local fair when my husband and children stepped into my little 10 foot by 10 foot booth. I looked down to find my children covered from head to toe with stickers bearing the name of a local politician running for reelection. They each clutched balloons with the candidate's name upon them in bold lettering.
I looked at my husband in disbelief.
K: WHY are your children wearing THESE stickers and holding these balloons?
Let me start by saying my moral superiority was openly misplaced. It wasn't my district. It wasn't my politician. But I knew of this politician and he did not represent the values I espouse. Or my husband's values, for that matter. This is the time of year for campaigning and everywhere we go this summer, politicians will be out shaking hands and kissing babies. Apparently some will have balloons.
D: He had balloons. The other guy didn't have balloons. The kids wanted balloons.
People are very passionate about politics these days. Having sat around doing next to nothing for much of our lives, our generation finds itself with lots of opinions, causes and avenues to express them. That's cool. Express yourself. If you want to cover the entire back of your car with this or that, I am all for it unless you also clog the left lane doing 10 miles below the speed limit. Then I associate your causes with negative things rather than that neutral stance I feel when I see a bumper-sticker laden car.
But handing out balloons to kids? Is a balloon just a balloon or is it a little odd for a child to be making a political statement? I was already creeped out by Politician A walking down the street asking if kids wanted candy from the bucket he was carrying. The guy must not have kids or he would know that many a mother would vote against him just because he gave her child candy from a bucket in the middle of the morning.
Why can't politicians do it the old fashioned way? Candidates driving down the street during a parade, riding in a convertible borrowed from the local car dealership, and hurling fistfuls of candy in the direction of the kid-infested curbs? Now there are balloons? Don't get me wrong. I have always wanted balloons with my name on them. How awesome would that be?
Last election we were a divided household with our five year old voting for one candidate and his parents voting for another. It did not matter since he cannot vote anyway but I imagine he would like to have had his views represented by his parents (more candy, later bedtimes for everyone!). I'd like to think that politics is about the beliefs and values of your politician, but maybe it really is about the stickers and balloons. What do you think?