Yes. It’s true. I am scared stiff to travel with my kids.
Stop scratching your head and pick up that jaw. I’ll explain.
Traveling with kids is not easy. It’s not necessarily something you wake up one morning and feel like the world is bright and rosy, and you can conquer the world. I mean really, are there any days in parenthood that feel like that? If there are you really need to tell me your secret. Traveling, like parenthood, on any level takes a leap of faith.
Before you even add kids into the equation you need to let go of your fear of getting in a bus, boat, train, car, or plane crash. You need to stop worrying about lost luggage, getting mugged, losing your wallet, running out of cash, not having cash to begin with, and going the wrong way.
Now let’s add children into the mix.
Not only do you have all of the fears you had to get over for your own personal comfort, but now you have to fear for your children. Will they get hurt? Kidnapped? Lost? Have an allergic reaction to the climate/food/grass/concrete/sheets? These are the bigger bits of anxiety parents face when they hit the road with their kids. It’s our job to worry; even if it’s not an active obsession, it is subconsciously down there to protect our children at all costs.
After you dig your way past the major events that are terrifying to even think about when you take your kids out of the house (I won’t get into what can happen IN the house), you start to worry about the every day. How will they deal with the travel to and from your destination? Will they eat anything once you get there? Will they have fun? Will they remember? What if they scream the whole time? What if they lose their favorite bedtime friend? What if they hate the bed? What if you just spent all this money on a vacation for nothing? The list really does go on and on. Trust me. Mine is a mile and a half long.
Now let’s think this through. Given all of the personal fear involved with travel, and then the anxiety of bringing your kids along on said trip, wouldn’t you be terrified too? Of course you would! It’s what keeps us up at night, right? Now let’s bring this down to reality.
Statistically you will not die in a plane, train, bus, or boat accident. The odds are slim. Your kids may get hurt, but there are hospitals and medical professionals across the globe. If you are still worried stick close to major metropolitan areas where hospitals are more prevalent. Children do get lost. Parents do too. Prep your kids for this in case it does happen. Sadly children also get kidnapped, but again, statistically your odds are pretty low while on the road. This does not mean you don’t keep an eye on your kids. If you have a 2-year-old runner that is turning your hair white, get one of those monkey backpacks with a leash. I do not support leashing your kids like animals, but it has crossed my mind on occasion. If it is all that will give you peace of mind, do it.
As for the little things that have you biting your nails at night, take a deep breath. Your kids don’t eat their dinner at home some nights no matter how much you cater to their tastes (and whims.) They may have a horrible flight, but then again they may surprise you and be amazing. If they aren’t, well, find the local dessert shop and go to town to get your self rebalanced and hit the ground running. Just because a child doesn’t get to your destination like a perfect angel, doesn’t mean they can’t have a fabulous time once you are there. Will they eat the local food? Maybe not. But I bet you can find one thing they will eat. My 4-year-old son generally drinks nothing but milk the first 2 days. It is his comfort food and we just go with it. As long as he is happy, I don’t push it. There is plenty of time to dive into the local cuisine once he is settled in.
Parents will be happy to know that not only will their kids remember these trips, but they will look back on them as adults quite fondly. True, they may not remember every hair-pulling moment you do, but they will remember that quality family time. In a survey released by the U.S. Travel Association, conducted by Harris Interactive, researchers found that “most adults surveyed (62 percent) said their earliest memories were of family vacations taken when they were between ages five and 10, and they remember childhood trips more clearly than school events or birthday celebrations.”
Feeling better yet? Maybe, maybe not. As much as I travel I do admit that I have many fears and anxieties before we leave and during the planning process. I may remember that horrible first night in Switzerland when both my boys cried off and on all night while we dealt with exhaustion and jet lag. Or I’ll think back on that Lifetime Original Movie about the child prostitution ring and the number of children forced or tricked into it. These things are real, and they are scary, but I try not to live my life in fear. This is not to say I don’t have visions of what I would do if someone tried to grab my kid. Taking them out at the knees as I hurl myself through a crowd usually comes to mind first. I have even had times during our travels that I have had to ask strangers to back off, because although it is culturally OK for them to touch my child or try to pick him up out of his stroller as far as they are concerned, it made me uncomfortable. Every one of those people listened to my wishes.
I know I’m going to have bad days. I know that there are horrible people in the world, but I also know there are so many good people out there too.
Grandmothers in every country are just waiting to tell me that my babies are adorable and that I dress them too warmly for their climate. Young mothers across the globe are sneaking smiles at each other as we all share this common bond of sleepless nights and too early mornings with toddlers begging for something when we are just trying to squeeze in 2 more minutes of sleep before the sun comes up. Fathers are kicking soccer balls with their boys in backyards, against old stone churches, and through fields as they walk to work and school. Life goes on no matter where you are. The important thing is to know you are not alone and not everyone is out to get you. Things will go right. Things will be fun, fantastic, and amazing beyond your wildest dreams. At least they have for us.
I’ve had to deal with falls, bumps, and bruises. I’ve had to turn to my husband and ask, “do you think that needs stitches?” more than once. I’ve thrown up my hands in frustration when the baby won’t sleep anywhere but on top of me. I have also laid my head down after another tireless meal where no one wanted to eat what we had ordered. The thing is, this all happens at home too. I’m constantly battling the food war, patching up scrapped knees and banged up elbows. I don’t stop being a mom just because I travel, and my kids don’t stop being kids just because we don’t go anywhere. I have had to consciously push aside the fear, jump in the car, and say “I will do this, because I can.”
Some days you really do just need to forget about being afraid, take that leap of faith, and decide where you want your good and bad days to occur. I’ve chosen to mix up my life with travel. After all, if my kids are going to throw a tantrum, I’d rather be gazing at the Roman Coliseum than my kitchen sink while they do it.