Lately, I’ve seen a lot of posts from parents that basically all say that traveling with kids is the pits: no rest, no relaxation, no fun–just supervision and crankiness and stress the vast majority of the time.
(Or my own personal favorite: “Let’s get real–it’s really only a vacation for the kids.”)
I get it.
I really do.
There were many moments (often several a day) where I could tell that my husband was about to pop out his eyes like a cartoon character from the sheer craziness of trying to fit in adventures around nonexistent naptimes, and where my brain voluntarily shut down the screaming echoing from the carseat in back and focused on playing Candy Crush on the tablet to the exclusion of everything else because I just. couldn’t. take. it. anymore.
Traveling with kids (especially small ones like Raven, who thrive best on multiple naps a day, preferably not in the car) can be beyond stressful.
But all last week, when the moments started to feel a little frazzled from one naptime pushed off too long and one scream that had reached just the right decibel, I kept going back to a blog comment one thoughtful reader left ages and ages ago on one of my posts bemoaning how gluten-free baking just wasn’t cutting it for me. She said:
“I find that maybe instead of trying to replace your favorites, it’s easier to find new things to eat. That way, you’re not constantly comparing it to the “real” thing. And if you’re eating something new and it turns out delicious, you start to forget about all the things you’re missing!”
You see where I’m going with this, right?
Let’s say that I’m comparing this particular foray we just took into Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding areas with the last time I was out that way—
Last time, Matt and I had yet to become parents (and I had yet to become pregnant), we traveled during the least busy time of the year, and we were raring to go on some grand adventure that hopefully involved a little bit of thrill and danger with a lot of bit of fun.
And it was, well, COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY AWESOME.
So if we’re trying to compare apples to oranges here (or going to Yellowstone with a kid in the dead of summer along with millions of other people compared to snowmobiling in and having the park basically to ourselves), yeah, one is going to come up short on the traditional “as much fun as possible for me” scale.
But, like that blog reader sagely pointed out, sometimes it’s better to seek out new favorites rather than endlessly try to get something back that’s currently out of reach. Sometimes it’s better to take the time to realize that it’s pretty dang amazing to watch a 15-month-old freak out as she wades into a cold lake for the first time or point excitedly at Old Faithful as it erupts or look in awe at the grouse that just ran across the path.
Sometimes it’s better to take the time to realize that we’re all laughing a lot more than we used to because nothing is funnier than a toddler who thinks she’s the funniest saying ‘hi’ to you every time you start to try and walk away and who smiles at you with those big, trusting eyes and gives a hearty laugh as she waves in your direction and who squeals with delight every time you see anything that moves.
And as you continue to think along those paths, you’ll realize that one way really isn’t better or more awesome than the other way at all—
they’re just completely and utterly different.
Additionally, traveling with kids forces you to take frequent breaks to nap and snack, which is something that everyone–even us “grown-ups”–benefits from.
Because of Raven going down for bed at 6:30 every night, I told Matt to take off with his family to go check out other things while I stayed behind at the cabin. While to some people, this would seem like a huge sacrifice, for my naturally introverted personality, it was a string of gloriously quiet hours spent reading out on the porch in the sunset, discovering a new-to-me series on Netflix that I love, and dreaming and scheming for future plans I want to bring to fruition.
Raven’s sleep schedule provided me with the perfect blend of adventure and rest so that when the stress levels were about to cause minor meltdowns, I was able to (more or less) keep it all together.
And in the end, I also realized that it’s not simply a vacation for ME anymore anyway (or even me-and-the-hubby)—
It’s a vacation for all of us, which requires some give and take, just like any good relationship.
So, my verdict on traveling with kids?
Go into with the right mindset, and it just might become a “new favorite.”