Welcome to the July 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Vacation
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their family-travel tips, challenges, and delights. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
In February (how is it July already??) we flew out to LA for a family vacation that included Disneyland and Las Vegas. While we were on vacation I read a blog post that was called something like, "Fakebook" (if anyone knows the article I am talking about, please let me know!) Basically it talked about the tendency for people to only post the amazing, beautiful, and fun events and pictures for the world to see. There are different thoughts about why this is (hello, EGO! Look at me, look how great my life is!), what the effects of this phenomenon are (hello, DEPRESSION! Compare, compare, I'm not good enough... wahh!!), and if it is for the best (ummm, sometimes?). Personally, I believe that it is better to keep some things private (especially if they involve other people), that generally speaking it's good to keep very public things positive, and that we all need to remember that there are real people behind every "public profile" leading imperfect human lives with unique challenges.
If you go over to my other blog here: Everyday Adventures: Our Western Adventure you can see all of the amazing, beautiful, and fun things we did.
I also posted quite a few pictures during the trip on Facebook such as these:
Of course, I also think it's important for people to be "real" - especially if you've decided to put yourself "out" in the world. I love to share myself and my life so I strive to share different aspects of myself and my life. At the end of the trip, the morning of our flight back home, I posted the following status update:
7 nights, 3 hotels, 2 states, 2 long drives, 1 overwhelming amusement park, 1 awesome playground, 1 amazing children's museum, and 8 early mornings... we are ready for flight #2 to bring us home (in 7 hours! what to do?? Pack and repack and chillax in our room I guess!) Gerry seems finally to have adjusted to this traveling thing just in time to go home. Marisol has a full blown cold. I know that we posted lots of pretty pictures, but OF COURSE we had lots of less than pretty, "perfect" photo-ops this past week (many of them presented by our 4 year old life coach...) I can definitely say that all of the challenging moments (child who wants nothing to do with "The Happiest Place on Earth", child who cries for much of a 4 hour car ride that he just wants to go home - and not to fly, but to drive! - children waking to face the day at 4-5 am, making sure we had enough food to eat for early wake ups, all of us exhausted by 6 pm...) were worth it! We had fun together, learned together, grew together... vacations are like life amplified and shrunk down to a short stretch of time... our attitudes can make or break them. <3
This seemed to touch a lot of people, and I want to take time to expand on what our challenges were - for me to remember and so other people know there is much more that goes on than what is presented in the photos.
Our challenges began before the vacation even started. Those of you that follow or are friends with me, may have caught some comments about Gerry not wearing shoes. For over a month before our vacation he would not put shoes on and would only wear shorts and t-shirts (even though we were in the midst of the coldest, snowiest winter we've had in Virginia in years.) In January the kids and I visited my parents in Florida for 10 days. He did not put his crocs on once - not on either flight, not when we went to a restaurant, not even when we went to Lego-land. Here is some photographic proof:
Ok so I don't have much photographic proof, because I didn't take many pictures. Maybe my mom or sister can help out. But you can see Gerry's bare tootsies if you look carefully! I also love the various levels of dress in this picture - especially that my mom has a winter hat on while Gerry is only in shorts and a T-shirt.
Thank goodness for strollers! And blankets. And Florida sun. And understanding Grandmas, Grandpas, and Aunts and Uncles.
Gerry was also VERY into the Wii through the whole winter. He loves video games - especially any Mario game. When we went to Florida my mom had a Wii for their house so we brought all of our favorite games. This was mostly a good thing - the weather wasn't all that warm so it gave us something to do. But it was also a challenge getting Gerry to get out of the house. So we were concerned about how he was going to deal with a week long vacation away from the comforts of home (aka Wii!) that involved long plane and car rides.
When we got home from Florida we had about 3 weeks until we flew out to California. Every time we went to one of Marisol's classes or a friend's house Gerry cried that he never wanted to leave the house again. So I wrapped him up (usually in his favorite sheet - a blue, queen sized "lovey") and carried him to the car in the freezing cold. We had 3 weeks to "shoe train" - I really wanted him to be ok wearing shoes so he could enjoy Disneyland and go on rides! (I had managed to sneak him on a couple rides at Lego-land, but wasn't confident this would work in Disney.) Gerry really wanted (and still wants!) to get the Wii U game system which is about $300. We told him every time he wore his shoes we would put a tally on a sheet of paper and put a dollar towards our "Wii U account." (We only ended up doing a few tally marks, and we haven't bought a Wii U yet. It's something he still wants and we are considering for next winter.) Over the 3 weeks he put his shoes on for short stretches a handful of times. The longest was when we went into Target to get some candy for Valentine's day.
Incredibly, on the trip he wore shoes whenever he needed to - no fights or problems. Ironically though, he didn't want to go on any rides in Disney so my worrying was pretty much pointless!
All of Gerry's favorite things at Disneyland were at our hotel, NOT in the parks. In no particular order his favorites were: 1) The bunk beds in our hotel room, 2) The pool, and 3) The arcade. Also, I found photographic evidence that he was still barefoot at times. The one thing he really enjoyed IN the park was a parade we caught on the second night.
So I know that this post has mostly been about Gerry. That's because Marisol really was happy to be going to Disneyland and being 3 years older than him is at a much different maturity level than he is. Since Gerry wasn't feeling the parks - they were too loud, too busy, and full of too many people - Mike and I ended up doing "shifts" with Marisol at the park while one of us hung out with Gerry in the hotel. On the second day I did manage to get him to come back into the park to get icecream and we met up with Mike and Marisol. Also we happened to be in the right place at the right time to see an evening parade - always a fun event at Disney - and Gerry got to see some of his favorite characters.
Marisol and I really enjoyed our morning together alone at the park on the second day. It was actually a very relaxed way to "do" Disney! We could do whatever it was she wanted to do, and I was able to focus completely on her. It was like a "mommy/daughter" date. We arrived at the gates before they opened (they open an hour early for guests staying at the hotel) and went straight to Space mountain. We ate breakfast together, caught the show in the "Tiki room" and went to the petting zoo where she got to pose with Woody. My favorite ride with her was the bobsleds. It was just a great morning!
And Mike had tons of photographic evidence of Marisol having a great time with him too, while Gerry and I chilled at the hotel:
After Disney we rented a car to drive to Las Vegas. For about 2 of the 4 hours Gerry cried. He cried because he wanted to go home. When we told him that we couldn't go home yet anyway, because our flight wasn't for a few days, he insisted that he wanted to drive home. When we told him that would take days, he didn't care. He was miserable.
Basically we kept affirming for him that he wanted to go home and that he was sad/upset. And we stayed (relatively) calm (deep breathing is an important parenting strategy that is very helpful) while also letting him know that we weren't going home yet. The good news: once we got to Vegas and settled into a new hotel and doing fun things, he was totally fine. The highlights of Vegas included the aquarium at Mandalay Bay, a park with an awesome playground and a small mountain we hiked up (ok, hill - but mountain sounds way cooler), and the children's museum.
Finally we drove back to California for our flight home. We decided we better drive back a day before our flight to break up the traveling into more manageable chunks. This turned out to be fun because I got to visit all of the amazing ladies and leaders of Hypnobabies at their office, and we got some beach time in. We also had a really enjoyable dinner at the hotel we stayed in - I remember we had a great conversation with the kids about our vacation and it wasn't a stressful "restaurant experience" at all. Gerry was even talking about rides he wants to do at Disney "next time" - this kid never fails to crack me up!
Ironically, this post has turned into a post full of beautiful pictures. It really was a great family vacation. But I hope that the "back story" has revealed that it wasn't perfectly smooth and fun 100% of the time. We had rough moments (and hours!) and there was at least one time that I remember thinking - "why did we think this was a good idea??" But the key from my facebook status above is this: "vacations are like life amplified and shrunk down to a short stretch of time... our attitudes can make or break them. <3"
It can be really beneficial to plan and prepare for vacation - to pack well and be proactive and and talk about our plans with our kids. But it may be even more important to consciously LET GO of all the plans once you are actually in the midst of it: To be flexible and calm in the face of bad weather and meltdowns, to realize that as the parent, you are the adult and therefore should be the one who is mature enough to change your plan and regulate your emotions. It would have been easy to be really bummed that we spent a lot of dough on Disney and Gerry didn't really seem to enjoy or appreciate it (at least not in the way we had hoped he would! In reality he loved parts of it.) Instead we rolled with it and were able to have fun anyway. It would have been easy to let his cries really unravel us and get us down on that long (but beautiful) drive to Las Vegas, but instead we were able to stay calm and ride it out - literally! (I want to be sure and add that I don't always feel calm on the inside. Sometimes I feel anxious and stressed and wish I was somewhere else. But I've learned that none of those things help and so I can often keep those things to myself while deep breathing. Sometimes Mike and I vent later to each other out of earshot of the kids. But sometime staying outwardly calm is the best we can do, and faking it is almost as good as for-real-internal calm. And even better - with practice it can turn into internal calm.)
It's at times like these that I'm exceptionally grateful for the principles that guide our family (peaceful/gentle parenting, unschooling - whatever term you wish to apply). I am also incredibly lucky to have Mike as my partner on this journey with our kiddos. I am always confident in our ability to have a good time together and to learn and grow together too. And that makes for many wonderful vacations.
Visit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon July 8 with all the carnival links.)
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.