Updated: Aug 5, 2020
Let me share a very well kept secret. Well, it might not be that well kept but... TRAVELING WITH KIDS IS HARD. It is an obscene amount of work. I sometimes wish I could book a vacation after my vacation. Despite the carefree joy you see on instagram, it took prep time, potty time, medical attention and a 30 minute "stern talking to," to get those smiley happy family photos. Its really not a true vacation until one kid has cried, one has forgotten a prized possession and one has had a melt down because they thought you left them when really, you went to throw away their melty ice cream and you were not in eye sight the complete journey back from the trashcan. If you cannot relate to this, move along, I'm not your brand of honest or your kids had a lobotomy.
Currently, we are making the most of our time in the city of London while we wait for our house to be ready. Because Baker street is in the heart of everything, it is very easy for us to take day trips to all the big "must-see" places. This still has not made travel with 3 kids, on public transport, simple by any means. But we are planning to soak up as much as we can while we can. I realize almost every weekend how precious this season is for our family, as we don't usually have this kind of time with Zac home. So I want to make note of some habits and routines that are working for us as we adventure and get to know our new home.
"Let me try that again."
Don't complicate it, simple words can be powerful.
As a parent, when you are juggling a lot of balls, in an unfamiliar place, without your bearings, your patience becomes thin and tempers come out. We are all human. Without fail, while I am looking at a subway map trying to figure out where we are going, one kid is racing for the escalator, one is asking me to look at something that will inevitably be inconsequential, and another is ducked down to tie their shoe in the middle of foot traffic. You try to be everything for everyone, all the time. It is not possible. I am going to go ahead and be brutally honest, and admit that I am mission driven. And if you are not a part of the success of my mission, then get out to of my way. Hint: None of my kids want to be a part of the success of my mission. So I often lose my temper. I snap and say, "Stop Running!" or "Really, did I need to know that lady had a dog in her purse and her breath stinks?" or "Yes, let's tie our shoe in the middle of everyone, we are all just living in your world boo." I'm that mom with the razor sharp quips and scary stank eye. Don't forget where Im from.
A dear friend of mine reminded me of the "Let me try that again" tactic. When I lose my temper, or say things that are unkind or unnecessary, I can quickly catch myself. "Let me try that again." I try to communicate my feelings or frustrations in a better, kinder way. As a parent, this is humbling. I am totally putting myself out there, as the adult that should know better, admitting my failures. But I will say this, looking at my kids faces when I point blank tell them that I screwed up and I want to try harder is epic. They in turn, want to try harder too. It has not only shifted the dynamic as a family unit, it has required forgiveness on all of our parts. Everyday we are recognizing our faults, taking ownership and attempting to make better choices. Isn't that life?
Sometimes a silly reminder, reminds you that you are being silly.
We have a few pessimists in our family unit. I am not going to name names, but it's Avah and Zac. When we are all together on a trip, they can sometimes shade mundane things in a negative light. For instance, Avah will complain about how cold it is in the shade, and she should have packed her jacket but her brother was taking away her attention from what she needed to be packing. Then she steps into the sunlight and says how hot it is outside, and she needs a water but she forgot to pack it because her brother was taking away her attention from what she needed to be packing. (This makes me crazy, it also breaks my heart.) Thats when Zac, who implemented this rule to help in his own struggle, says "Peaches." When you enact the "Peaches Rule," it is a hard stop to shift your thinking. You must give 3 things you are thankful for in order to hit the reset button and get back in the family fold. Often times, our kids laugh and come up with a few real, and a few dubious items to be grateful for. Even through the laugher, we remember that what we focus on grows... positive or negative.
3. "Lead the way."
Good leaders are made through experience.
Zac and I are most excited to share this experience abroad with our kids. We have always wanted to raise kids that have a bigger world view, an awareness of others and a deep desire to be a good human. The more our kids take in that the world is so big, and does not revolve around them, the more they seem to be interested in the good human bit. To build their confidence in this big world, we have applied the "Lead the way" principle.
Since arriving in London we have not had a vehicle, and my children have NEVER ridden on public transportation. Quite honestly, they have been fortunate enough to never have needed to. Now, that is all we have, and I want them to be grateful for it. Even more so, I want them to be aware of where they are, know where they are going and be confident enough to get there safely. So now, instead of me mapping out every route and leading the group like a cranky tour guide, we pick one kid to "Lead the way". We tell them which way we need to go, what stop we need to reach, and ask them to look on the grid and pick which tube will get us there. They then have to find which tunnel, escalator or stairs to take to get us to the right platform on time. Asher of course can not read yet, so he instead leads us out of the subway by following the yellow and black exit signs. He thinks he's a genius, we all know better.
I recognize this sounds so simple and stupid. Yes, there are times we have to give gentle suggestion that we are going the complete wrong way. It happens to the best of us. But every time they get the chance to lead, they are visually excited, and they learn something new about the city, the transportation system or themselves.
So, there they are, the top 3 ways in which we are trying to enjoy travel and adventure with our crazy kiddos. It takes some mental gymnastics sometimes. As a parent, I am always looking for ways to reach my kids, teach my kids and love them better. This post is definitely not a "Look at me I'm crushing parenting." This is a more a, "This stuff really helped us and it may help you too." You never know when you may need to try again, eat peaches or empower someone to lead the way!