If you are reading this believing that I can offer you a full proof way to make traveling with kids easy, you are either:
b) Not a parent who has ever traveled with kids
c) Extremely desperate
If you are c) Extremely desperate… hey, I get it. After spending most of the past month and a half either on plane, in a car, begging my daughter to sleep, or sobbing inconsolably… often most of these at one time, I would try just about anything to make traveling with my daughter even a little easier.
I love to travel. I wish that I would have done more of it when I was young and unencumbered. There are so many places in the world that I want to see, foods I want to taste, cultures I want to experience, and languages I want to not understand. Yes, I love traveling, but I have come to realize that I do not love traveling with my 15-month-old daughter.
Me in Bali BEFORE baby. Don’t I look relaxed?
This summer we flew to Italy with Lyla. She is very well-behaved, but she is also extremely curious, very energetic and besides that…she is 15-months-old. Too old to want to sit in my lap for very long or to fall asleep in my arms, but not old enough to discover the joys of the Ipad, portable DVD player, TV, or really anything at all for longer than 3.5 minutes at a time. She wants to run, explore, play, and say hello to each and every person on the plane, whether they are sleeping child-hating weirdos or not. No matter how well-behaved she is, 12 hours on a plane spent chasing, playing and apologizing profusely is exhausting.
But it is not just the plane ride that is the killer; it usually doesn’t get much easier once you arrive at your destination. It certainly didn’t get easier once we arrived in Italy. When you take a new country, a new bed, new people, new food, new schedule and a bevy of new experiences and add that to a significant time change plus jet lag plus not sleeping for 15 hours on the plane ride, you get one cranky baby. And one cranky baby equals two cranky parents. You multiply that by the two weeks we were in Italy plus the two weeks it took all of us to recover when we got home, and it DOES NOT equal a relaxing vacation.
I guess that maybe our intercontinental jet-setting ways could be to blame. Ah…if only that were true. The truth is that it is not much easier traveling even a short distance. After returning from Italy, I flew alone with my daughter to visit my parents in Colorado for our yearly tradition of the Llama Races. It was only a two-hour flight and a one-hour time change, but still my daughter was cranky, clingy, and completely unrecognizable as my usually-delightful spawn for most of the trip. Every single nap and nighttime took 2-3 hours of rocking, milking, reading, pleading, bargaining, and threatening (threatening God, not my daughter… threats don’t work on her yet.) Most parents would agree that nap time and bedtime are some of the best times of the day (sorry Lyla, I love you, but it’s true.) These moments are the only time that you can have a real conversation, an actual meal or a full
glass bottle of wine. So missing out on this, when I had gone to Colorado to spend time with my friends and family was a slap in the face. By the third day I was on the edge of a nervous breakdown.
To rub salt in the wound, my husband had to stay home to work, so I was doing all of this alone. My husband meanwhile was sleeping in, going out, watching movies, seeing friends, and drinking many a bottle of wine and/or beer and/or vodka. I was out-of-town, but HE got the vacation. Not that I resent him… he works very hard and deserves a vacation more than anyone. But to say that I was just a little, teensy bit jealous would be an understatement. But then, I am a jealous bitch.
Ok, so here’s the part of the blog where I turn it on its head and tell you how I was able to make it all easier, or how through some incredibly special moment with my daughter, I came to realize that it was all worth it. Sorry, friends. Not going to happen this time. There is no full-proof way to make traveling easier. There is no magic device to make kids behave the way you want, when you want them to. (Sorry Apple!) I truly wish that there was. The point of this blog is just to say that if you are a parent and halfway through your “relaxing” “vacation” you found yourself just wishing you were home watching reality TV, you are not alone. It is tough. I don’t know if it gets better. I hope so, but I doubt it. I have a feeling that you exchange one hardship for another.
So, do I need a vacation from vacations? YES. Will I ever travel again? Certainly. What’s the alternative? Sit around all year drinking boxed wine and watching the Bachelor Pad? Actually… hmmmm… tempting. But alas, Bachelor Pad only lasts a month or two. And besides, what could I possibly learn if I made everything easy on myself? And more importantly, what would I blog about? The world is full of places to visit, people to meet and experiences to discover… for my daughter and myself. And while my travels were not exactly relaxing, I did find time for a lot of laughs with friends, some great conversations with family, and many wonderful moments with my daughter. Moments that I wouldn’t trade for anything… except maybe a staycation at home by myself.