3 Things You Should Know About Traveling With Kids After Divorce
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We all know that life drastically changes after divorce. Everything is different and you have to learn to function, and dare I say thrive, doing everything solo. One of my biggest hurdles was being brave enough to travel alone with my young kids.
It was exhausting just thinking about long car rides, hectic airplane flights, endless “are we there yet” conversations, and inevitable meltdowns. But I knew I didn’t want grand adventures and perspective expanding experiences to be another loss my kids suffered from something completely out of their control.
So, I made up my mind to be brave and endure the craziness and chaos...by myself. I started small with day trips and then eventually weekend trips. I had amazing moments when I was the coolest mom ever and moments when I questioned my sanity and whether or not we would all make it back home alive. Through it all, I continually learned lessons that made the next trip more enjoyable for us all.
About a month ago we went on our biggest trip to date. We live in Florida and my kids have never seen mountains, waterfalls, or anything other than flat coastal places. So, I planned a 4 day vacation to North Georgia that included Atlanta, Amicalola Falls in Chattahoochee National Forest, and Stone Mountain. I was excited to expose my kids to something new, but nervous about all the possible meltdown scenarios.
When it was all said and done, I had three main takeaways:
You’re Going to Lose Your Shit At Some Point...but that’s what wine is for
There’s a lot of pressure as a single mom and that pressure does not take a back seat during vacations. You have to do all the planning, all the navigating, and all the financing. It can be overwhelming. So, there is a very real necessity to NOT make molehills into mountains...especially if your goal is to not kill someone. Also, proper planning is key.
My Achilles heel is the bickering and teasing between the two kids that inevitably arises if they are bored for more than 2 seconds. This behavior significantly increases in the car (Do I hear an AMEN?!). This is usually the time I lose my shit. All the whining….she touched me...he looked at me...it breaks me down. Out of necessity, I have learned a few techniques to combat this conduct including:
Technology - It’s all fine and dandy to limit technology at home and during normal routines. However, a little technology goes a long way on a 6+ hour car ride. My DVD players are a lifesaver! Don’t judge!
Lollipops (the big ones) - I know this might seem counter-intuitive, but it works. I buy the big lollipops that they have to lick and can’t finish in one sitting. I get a good half hour to forty five minutes of relative peace with these. After about that amount of time I wrap them up and save them for the next “emergency”. Caution: There needs to be a balance between having a little distraction and having too much sugar.
Timing- Timing is everything! You know your kids’ schedules and patterns of behavior. It is smart to plan the travel time around these. I know that sometimes this is impossible, but if it is possible...do it! I am a morning person, so I wake up in the early morning hours (like 2:00-3:00am) and start driving during a time that I know my kids will still sleep. Maybe you are a night person and want to travel through the late hours. Either way, knocking off any travel time with the kiddos sleeping is magic!
Let’s say you do all this and more. You strategically plan, pack all necessities for distraction and redirection, and maybe even do some breathing exercises and mediation. But to no avail...your kiddos still manage to know how to get under your skin and make you beg for mercy.
That’s where the wine comes in! Obviously you can’t employ this tactic until you reach your destination. However, I have found that even just a little wine does wonders for calming the nerves, having more fun, and taking things less seriously. I’m not advocating getting sloppy drunk, but I am saying that everyone will have more fun if mom isn’t uptight.
They Will Be Ungrateful Little Brats...but you probably were too
One of the best parts of traveling with your kids is the opportunity to see everything through a child’s eyes, with newness and wonder. I love giving my kids new experiences and cherish the memories I have from when my parents did the same for me.
However, now that I’m a parent myself, I understand what my parents went through. I was fortunate enough to go on many road trips with my parents and my brother as I grew up. We traveled across the entire United States. I have fond memories of singing songs in the car, hiking mountains, swimming in hotel pools, and exploring places I didn’t even know existed.
But ask my parents what they remember! Sure, they will have fond memories as well. But they will add a few stories about how my brother and I whined about doing something that was supposed to be fun or incessantly asked for more more more. They will show you pictures of us crying or frowning. They would tell you how many times my Dad yelled, “Don’t make me pull this car over!”. Don’t get me wrong, I was grateful and appreciative….but I was also a kid.
So, why am I surprised when I’m facing the same obstacles with my kids? It’s a tale as old as time. Kids usually don’t appreciate things or know the true value of things until they grow up. They won’t remember all the toys or games they had. But they will remember the time we spent together. I remind myself of this often, but especially when we’re traveling. It can be a struggle and I want everything to be perfect. But I know the circumstances that seem stressful and inconvenient now will actually make us laugh as we reminisce later.
When I think my kids are ungrateful spoiled little brats, I remember the little girl my parents raised and how much it’s worth it. Now that I am an adult, I wouldn’t trade those childhood memories for the world….as imperfect as they are.
You’re Making Memories That Will Last A Lifetime and Shape Who They Are...so suck it up buttercup
If you are anything like me and most other moms, you sacrifice a lot for your kids. You want to give them more than you had and better than you had. You want them to take advantage of all life’s opportunities and face challenges head on. This somehow becomes even more true after divorce. Sometimes I find myself overcompensating for this reason. Realistically, I know that I can’t possibly fill the void that divorce leaves and I also know that I have to let go of the guilt.
Even though traveling with my kids usually tests the very limits of my sanity, it’s also a way we bond and fill just a little of that void. Traveling expands our perspectives, gives us new topics to discuss, and grows us closer together. It shapes their identities and world views. It gives us a break from the everyday monotony. That’s a pretty good trade off. So, I guess I’ll suck it up!
Change is hardly ever easy. Adapting to solo traveling with your kids may be out of your comfort zone. But don’t be intimidated...with a little planning, a little wine, and a lot of keeping your cool you can make unforgettable memories.