Travel and Kidlets: A Primer for Success

I know that I promised a series of entries on my Shot@Life experience, but I find myself on a borrowed laptop with no access to my files and photos. So…. to be revisited.

In the meantime, I offer you Other Stuff.

Last night the boys and I flew into Baltimore (my home town, WootWoot!) for a visit with the ‘rents/g’rents. Secretly (and yet another future post entry) I am here for a meeting at National Geographic HQ in Washington, D.C. next week, but I came out a few days early to visit with my folks and bum around with the boys.

I was kind of figuring I’d have a fantastically hilarious post for you today, since traveling with children sort of lends itself to this sort of thing, right? Well, not so! Yesterday went without the Keystone Cops routine. No meltdowns, no arguments over who gets the window seat (inevitably NOT ME), no lost little persons, no…well…anything, really. Everything went supremely well the whole day.

I suppose that is something to brag about in and of itself, yes?

Here’s my secret: MY BOYS ARE AWESOME.

The boys play at the MSP airport kids area.

That’s the main thing. Well, that and packing a bunch of snacks in their backpacks. But I did some preplanning that certainly helped everyone have a successful day. This stuff I can share with you.

1. Make sure you set your expectations of your children appropriately. Oh man, is this ever the key to success with travelkidlets. I know all of us mamas always want to have these fantastically-behaved, perfectly groomed little angels when we take them places. It’s a nice feeling to get complements from complete strangers, right? That’s great and all, but kids tend to get increasingly stressed if they have to worry about every little thing while you drag them around the country. So here is my mathematical formula for how I determine what level of expectation to exact from Thing1 and Thing2 while running from Gate A1 to Gate F472:

Worst Child You’ve Ever Seen In Your Life – Your Kid’s Age    =    Travel Capacity
Length of Travel Day

Okay, okay. My real expectation is that my kids aren’t the worst behaving children in the immediate area. Hah! That’s it. Really. I don’t want to be THAT MOM who doesn’t pay any attention to her kid’s behavior and allows them to kick the seat in front of them the entire flight or scream like their hair is on fire (unless it actually is), but I also don’t want to scold them into compliance the whole day, either. I want everyone to have a great day, including me, so a little crazy is acceptable as far as I’m concerned.

2. Give your kidlets specific tasks throughout the day. My oldest son is “in charge” of my youngest son. My youngest son is “in charge” of his monkey backpack. Both boys are in charge of spotting family bathrooms and trash cans for our gum wrappers once we get off the plane. We make it a challenge to see who can spot out gate first (C5 is in a different hallway than C8 at Minneapolis airport, FYI, so make sure you read your boarding pass carefully…ahem…not that I would make this mistake….). I give my boys one main thing to remember throughout the day. Yesterday it was “Brothers hold hands!”, which I said whenever it was super important not to lose anyone. They immediately grabbed each others hands. By the way, it is SO much easier to get through Security (since I have to strip myself of nearly everything, apparently) if the boys are occupied with each other and I don’t have to hold on to both of them while I hop one-footed out of my shoes.

3. Always tell your kids what is coming up. What do they need to do at Security? Where is our luggage going? Why can’t we run around right now? Where are we walking? I know that us ‘rents can’t predict everything, but we know enough to put our kids at ease. A big metropolitan airport is filled with fast-moving people, electric carts, bright lights, stores, art, high-pitched beeping, etc. Total Overload for kidlets, espeically if they’ve never been to a busy airport before. Before Security, tell them what they need to do and where they need to stand. Before you send your luggage off, tell them that there are people on the other side of the wall that will make sure your bag gets to your plane. Before they blast through a row of sleepy, coffee-drinking, laptop wielding business people, guide them over to a place with fewer people (if you can), or to the window so they can have a look at the planes. Yadda yadda yadda. Take the time to answer their questions. This is 9/10ths of calming their fears.

4. Realize that you aren’t always going to get what you want. Yeah, it would be nice if I didn’t get stuck in the stupid middle seat, but I know my boys will pick at each other the entire flight if I don’t sit between them. It would be fantastic if I got my Mocha Soy Decaf No Whip as we run past the Starbucks on our way to our next plane, but maybe my kids just can’t really stand in another line at that moment. And yes, I would LOVE to use a private bathroom stall and pee all by myself without commentary, but that just doesn’t happen with a 3 and 7 year old. That’s just the way it goes, folks. Suck it up.

Remember the bottom line: arrive at your final destination in tact. You are the adult, so it really falls on you to help your kids be successful. Travel can be stressful for everyone involved. Just remember that you are not a bad parent if your kid loses it and starts crying. Or if you lose it and start crying. Or if people sitting across from you give you that look. (You’ll never see them again.) You are in charge! You are the cool parent that gives your kids these fantastic opportunities to grow and learn! You are the person your kids love the most on this whole entire planet!

Boys at SFD airport

And don’t forget, there’s always Dramamine and Xanex. (FOR YOU. Not for the kids.) 🙂

Emily, Doer of Stuff

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