Ah, summer. It always goes by so fast. For the last two years, this has been compounded by taking not one, not two, but three trips (notice I did not say “vacations”), traveling with my toddler. Each trip was separated by less than two weeks, which is really too small a time to really get unpacked and settled back into a routine. This had the end result of taking up almost two months’ time — practically the whole summer.
This year, we are planning the same thing. A long July Fourth weekend at my aunt and uncle’s lake house in rural Virginia. A trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where my inlaws have a condo. A week-long stay at the Jersey shore with my family.
Sounds great, doesn’t it?
And it is. But it’s also a lot of work.
I’m still getting the hang of this traveling with toddlers thing. As is most often the case as a parent, our own fun is a distant second to that of our children’s. So we are like the man behind the curtain, pulling strings to make sure that everything is magical in their eyes. All of the preparation, all of the food and entertainment, all of the concerns about safety occupy our trip, in the hope that fun is the only thing that occupies theirs.
OK, so this year I geared up for the first of the three trips. The lake house. The lake house presented a series of challenges:
- We were sharing the house with my aunt and uncle, my two cousins (one in high school and one in college), my cousin’s friend, my parents, my sister, her husband and their two kids. Including us, that’s 14 people. FOURTEEN.
- There isn’t really a yard in which the kids can run around in.
- The backyard is a series of steps leading down to a dock.
- The water off the dock is very deep.
Then I have the series of particular challenges presented by my two-year-old:
- He’s prone to tantrums because of his communication and sensory processing issues.
- Most people think sensory processing issues don’t even exist.
- He’s not a good sleeper on vacation
- He’s a picky eater. Like really picky.
- If I don’t do what he wants (like bring him in bed with us or give him the food he wants), he will throw a major tantrum.
- No one wants to hear tantrums.
So how’d I do? Well, everyone emerged from the weekend safe and sound, so that’s the most important thing. But there were tantrums, tears (on my part) and some acts of questionable parenting (you want to eat a bazillion chips that will ruin your dinner? Go ahead, as long as it keeps you quiet).
Traveling with your toddler and other people, you have to pick your battles. Do you want to enforce all the rules to a T, or do you want a toddler who’s not screaming? It’s picking the lesser of two evils.
Another problem for us is that LM is all about Daddy whenever Daddy’s around. He wants nothing to do with me. So again, this meant that either Foggy Daddy had to do everything with LM, or we had to listen to him scream. After hearing FD complain about having to put LM to bed again, I told him I would do it. A half an hour of screaming toddler later while his cousins were trying to sleep in the next room, I frantically texted FD: “Please. He wants you not me.” After being relieved of my bedtime duties, I headed upstairs and promptly broke into tears.
The challenges around the water, though, terrified me the most. We came armed with the bubble LM wears for swim class, a puddle jumper, and a life jacket. LM refused the Coast Guard-approved puddle jumper and instead would only wear the bubble, which he was used to. But this unnerved me while swimming in deep water, even though of course one of us was with him at all times. His joy at jumping in and swimming around, though, tempered my fear somewhat.
Going out on the boat, however, he flat out refused the life jacket. FD and LM remained on the dock as we prepared to depart. But at the last minute, FD pinned him down on the ground, strapped the life jacket on as LM screamed, and then handed him over the side of the boat. As we motored out, LM continued to wail, and I felt the heat rise inside me again. We should have just left him home, I thought. Now he’s ruining everyone’s trip. But as soon as we got moving, he relaxed. Soon, he was asking for “more fast.”
Surprisingly, the car rides (eight hours each way) were the easiest part of traveling. LM took a long, four-hour nap, and then watched videos the rest of the time. Great parenting? Probably not, but what are the options for a kid who doesn’t like coloring or other sedentary activities that can be done in the car?
But probably the best moments of the trip occurred when I least expected them to. We decided to take LM to watch the fireworks, which would keep him out past his bedtime. I assumed they would be at nine — but it turns out they weren’t happening until 10. Whoops. But we weren’t going to miss them (great parenting again, I know). Instead, we visited the pre-show carnival. Let me tell you, a merry-go-round is actually quite scary when you realize you’re going kind of fast and the only thing keeping your toddler from flying off is your arms around his waist — and I could barely reach him when his horse’s pole rose up.
As the light faded, I realized I had forgotten the glow sticks I bought purposefully for the occasion. Instead, we let LM pick out a glow toy (a light saber — I groaned as I realized I had just bought him his first weapon), and walked back to our spot to watch the fireworks. The adults threw around a football, and LM wanted to join in too. And then as we settled into our lawn chairs, we read LM a story by the glow of the light saber. Then he drifted off to sleep — completely missing the fireworks. (Bonus to having a hard of hearing kid — loud noises aren’t as much of a problem.)
It wasn’t easy, but we made it through. It took a lot out of me, though, which is in part why this post was delayed (don’t be surprised if the same happens in the next few weeks after our next two trips). But the fun LM had made it all worth it. I guess our string-pulling worked.
Next stop: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Do you find trips with your toddler difficult? Any tips you would recommend?