1. Adjust your Expectations
“Expectation is the Mother of Frustration.” - Antonio Banderas
(side note: how is that quote attributed to Zorro when it sounds like a Chinese Proverb?)
I harp on this topic often. I believe that pain exists in that discrepancy between reality and expectations. Two people expecting two very different outcomes from a situation can have extremely different reactions to the same events.
For instance, when my little girl was just three weeks old, we went to a friend’s pool party for 4th of July. Most of you have already noticed my fatal flaw, but she was my first baby and I was damn near determined to be a “cool mom”. Of course I was going to bring my 3 week old baby to a pool party (which meant that I was only 3 weeks postpartum and couldn’t even get into the pool because I had to keep the chlorinated water from getting up my unhealed undercarriage). All of my best friends were there and I was going to have a good time. Except that I spent nearly the whole time either nursing or trying to get her to take a nap while all my besties took shots out back. My expectation was that I could still feed a newborn baby with my body while also kicking ass at flip cup, per the usual. I was wrong and I felt it. I’m not trying to say, keep your expectations low and then you won’t be disappointed, because I think that philosophy just breeds a bunch of sad sacks, but make sure your expectations are reasonable.
Did you notice the word “vacation” in this section title is in quotes? That is meant to remind you that there are indeed very few actual vacations when traveling with your toddler. Vacations indicate rest, relaxation, peace, fruity drinks and romance novels by the beach. Vacations in the typical sense of the word are hard to come by when a kid is constantly pestering you for additional sustenance in the form of fruit snacks. If you are expecting to have a laid back time and it turns out your kiddo is just as high maintenance in the Hamptons as they are at home, you are going to be disappointed. But if you expect that things will be hectic, and in the meantime you will have some really quality time with your family and make memories in the process, then you will be able to enjoy yourself and reflect on your trip fondly.
2. (Sit Down) Be Humble
I have an ego, so this one is tough for me. I have been very blessed in my life to be friggin’ good at a lot of things. Getting a squirmy kid to sit still on a plane is most certainly not one of them. I pride myself in being extremely self sufficient and being able to do almost anything on my own. Holding a kid in one hand and taking apart a stroller so it can fit through the security screener is also NOT one of them. You get the gist.
Traveling with your kid is messy. Understand that. Be humble and ask for help when you need it. It won’t go smoothly and you just have to be ok with it. You won’t appear to have all your shit together, because you don’t. And your child will be fooling no one into thinking they are a perfect angel, because they aren’t. Swallow that pride, thank those around you for putting up with your hot mess and accept your lot, because odds are, it’s a good one!
3. Practice Gratitude
While I have this listed as a mindset shift for enjoying your vacation with kids, I would say it is one of the most important mindset shifts for enjoying your life.
Baby crying? Be grateful that you have a baby to love!
Long layover at the airport? Congratulations on being among those of us privileged enough to spend large amounts of money to see the world.
Rental car too small? Be thankful that you have enough STUFF to fill a vehicle. What a treat!
Traveling really is a luxury, and when things don’t go exactly our way, it is important to remember that we are fortunate to be attempting it at all.