So when we went on our family vacation last week, I was super excited for the reasons that any “Suburban Mom” would be happy – my kid is going to experience a whole bunch of new firsts!
I’m the type of person who plans everything out on a spreadsheet before we go. It helps me organize what addresses and places we need to see, how to group our excursions so we maximize our time at a place rather than traveling to and fro and it helps me make sure we get in “everyone’s needs” on a trip.
What I selfishly forgot was, despite only being 10-months old, he still has an opinion. How horrible I felt when on our first full day there, my child clearly was done sitting in the stroller or car seat for hours on end. He clearly was through being shown things, instead of crawling and jumping and experiencing them for himself.
I remembering waking up Day 2, thinking my list was crushed, and my heart even more so. I had failed as a Mom to think that my kid had “ideas of his wants” too. Me. The Mom who wants nothing more in this life for her kid to be happy HIS way (as long as it’s safe and legal!) was sitting there with a trip itintrary that didn’t serve his needs.
So then I took stock. What did he want, and how can we make it all work? So today I thought I’d share a few of my “first time parent, first time vacationing” lessons that my kiddo taught me.
- It’s their time too. Yep. That means stopping and taking in a few sights that are age-appropriate for them. For us that meant mainly finding green spaces to crawl around and stretch the legs. Who knew that he didn’t want to be shopping for an hour? (I’m kidding, but please realize I have, at least for now, a “unicorn kid” who is laid back and goes with the flow and doesn’t really whine until it’s absolutely necessary.) Also, unhooking from the various safety items – strollers, car seats, etc…when it is absolutely safe only (i.e. we were making a stop and could chill out for a bit) helped. Getting down on his level was a huge help, seeing the rocky beach – not as a beach, but as a huge area of “snacks” (rocks to chew on) and leaves to play with and learning sand for the first time – not just a place to take family pictures and smell the breeze actually opened my perspective to him much more and I found myself stopping to smell the roses much more when I tried to take it in from his view.
- Plan time to not plan time. This really meant that he needed his own space and needs met. Of course, we met the “feed me” , “change me”, “let me sleep” basic requirements, but it also meant slowing down at the Zoo or Museum for him to really realize where he was. When we’re at home, he has all the time in the world to play with a new toy or read a board book. When we were on vacation, being the doers, movers and shakers that we are, I felt like we needed to slow down a bit. So touching the goat at the petting zoo meant making it a 20-30 minute experience, rather than the 5 minutes an adult might take (if any at all).
- Make a date time for each parent. My husband got his hair cut on vacation, trying out a new hair cut after 10 years of the same look. He’s tended towards the hipster fashion over the last two years, and now has the hair to match. That said, it gave me an unexpected 2 hours with my “little squeeze” to wander the shops around the barber and I really had a nice time. It was our time. I bought him his “first camera” from Spielwerks and we sat on a nearby picnic table playing with our cameras “together”. Showing him I would take a picture, and then he could. What’s funny is that, despite it not being a tourist destination, I enjoyed that little moment with him more than getting something checked off on my jet setter must-see list. Likewise, my husband was able to clear his head and get some time to himself.
- Making them comfortable, means you get to be. We rented a full size crib instead of a pack and play. Not only did this mean that we didn’t have to check-in and pay for a pack and play, but for a little more, it also meant he got to sleep in a crib, with his own full size mattress and his own “smells like home” sheets. The time change was enough of a hit to his normal routine, at least he had as close as possible to his own bed. It was easy enough to find a local place that offered this service, and they even delivered and picked up from the hotel as well, making it a seamless trip for us.
- Realize they aren’t on a routine. We are big Baby Wise followers. Our kid has basically followed it naturally since day one. (Refer back to comment above, we have a “unicorn kid”, I have no idea how we got this lucky, and I’m sorry to the other parents who haven’t had the same experience.) That said, when you take them two hours into a time zone change, things change a bit. Our first day was a bit hairy as he was hungry for lunch at 10am. I packed puffs and cereal to tide him over a bit and by day 3, we were generally back on schedule. I will say though, our biggest shift, despite having a crib, was on day 2, when he woke up early. He did sleep with us in bed from 4AM to his usual wake up of 8AM. No idea why he was up so early (excited like Mom & Dad to be in a new place?!) but that said, he snuggled in next to me like a little spoon and while I was panicked-awake-never-having-co-slept-before-and-what-about-SIDS it was really nice to snuggle with him since he’s getting to that toddler stage of “MOM! Stop hugging me so much, I wanna move!” After that, he was pretty okay, only waking up a little early the rest of the days. Even more so, on our return home, he took a few days of sleepy mornings to get back to his usual daycare and work routine. (So did the grown ups too.)
It’s easy for me to consider my kid on a day to day basis. I can’t wait to see him after work. I love on the weekends when we hit our “usual routine” of errands, perhaps dinner out, etc…but when it came to going on a holiday together, it really hit home that I forgot how to blend him in. Now, I “get” it, and it was a humbling experience to realize yet another #parentfail and learn that his wants and needs are getting more and more complex, and less “baby” and more like my own.
Now I can’t wait for the next adventure.