My children, happily plugged in during a 13-hour flight.
I was recently asked about traveling with children. Since I’m not too comfortable giving advice, I went to the web to see what the experts have to say on the subject. But after reading several articles, including one by a woman who travels back and forth from the United States to India with twin boys and has never used electronic devices, I realized that those people are from a different species. So here are some thoughts for the rest of us.
[By the way, that reminds me of an article I read by a woman who nursed her son for five years. Her son’s teacher mentioned that he and another child were the calmest in the classroom. “Oh, that’s because they were both nursed for five years,” she replied. I’m sorry, girlfriend, but if you nursed your child for five years it’s because he came out calm. I made it to 18 months with mine, but it was like wrestling baby walruses.]
So back to traveling with kids. I’m all for it. People thought we were crazy for bringing our kids to China when they were six, four, and two to bring their little sister home, but it was the best thing we ever did. I want them to feel that this is their world to explore and enjoy and take care of. Of course, traveling with a family of six isn’t cheap, but every extra penny we have goes to taking a trip of some kind.
I wasn’t always so gung ho, though. Many years ago when my oldest two were small, I was on the phone booking a flight to visit family. I was fretting about the best time to fly that would take nap times and meals into account. The airline rep put up with my dithering for a while then finally said―kindly but firmly―”You’re the mom. Make the plans and your children will do what they need to do.” And she was right. Our kids have walked gamely through an airport in Tokyo at 2 a.m. and have sat on a tarmac for three hours and they’ve survived just fine. More than fine, actually. They’re proud of being successful travelers.
Part of that success comes from doing what keeps us all happy. I have very active children, so I’m perfectly fine with letting them watch a DVD or two on the flight since they can’t run around. They each have a carry-on suitcase that they fill with toys and books and other things to keep them busy. I put a snack or two in there as well, just in case. I always have plenty of gum on hand, too. On our last trip, I experienced the ear-thing for the first time. So painful. It felt like someone was sticking needles into my ears. No wonder kids cry! Chewing gum really helped, so I’ll definitely have plenty on hand in the future.
I also did a little thing that may seem obvious to you, but I was pretty pleased with myself. You know how each passenger gets one clear quart-sized baggie to put liquids in? In the past, I’ve dutifully put one in the front pocket of each carry-on and then had to take them all out to put in the bins at security. Well, this time I put all six clear bags in a Target bag and threw them in the bin together. Afterward, I tossed them all in a carry-on and that was that.
A Word on Car Trips
Don’t you feel sorry for kids during long car rides these days? My brother and I used to sprawl in the back of the Fairmont and put on puppet shows for passengers in other cars. Now the poor things are strapped in and can barely move. So I have no problem letting them watch movies in the car. Having said that, I’m glad we implemented the rule that we only watch DVDs on long trips. We’re in the car quite a bit (we live 15 minutes from town) so instead of watching TV the kids are in the habit of reading or listening to music. Or just talking. And so when we do go on longer trips, it feels like a treat to watch a movie.
I do think it’s good to put a little energy into playing some old-fashioned games like the license plate game and the alphabet game and singing road songs. They make such great childhood memories. Shouldn’t every kid have to sit through ten rounds of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” at least once? Websites like Family Fun always have ideas for fun things to do on the road.
Whether you’re flying or driving, the important thing is to trust yourself as a parent and give your kids a chance to show how well they can do. Will there be snags? Of course. But as Nietzsche said, “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.”