I have been learning over the last few years (you know, since marriage and kids) that my expectations can tank a day faster than I can blink. And I’ve really experienced this during vacations with little ones. Come on mama’s, who can relate? =)
My husband got a great deal a while ago on a hotel in Flagstaff at the end of February. Which ended up being the days that they got like 6-12″ of snow. And our hotel only had 1 queen bed in a tiny little space. And my daughter is used to sleeping in a pack n’ play in the closet (don’t ask), which of course hotels don’t have and the only space to put her pack n’ play is right in front of the sink about three feet from the bed so sleep for everyone seemed like a pipe dream. And what can you realistically do in Flagstaff with a 3 & 1 year old when it’s snowing?
But, because I have had some really high expectations of vacations with littles before that were dashed to a smithereens, I intentionally entered into this one with VERY LOW expectations. Like, we’ll play in the snow at least once, the baby will probably cry all night and we won’t get any sleep for 3 days and we’ll be stuck in the hotel room watching Curious George most of the day, every day.
And you know what happened?
First, we decided to move rooms, because at 4pm, we had the people below us come knock on our door and tell us the “STOMPING IS REALLY LOUD”. Ahem. I may have had to choke down a, “Well, ma’am, it’s a hotel and that kind of comes with the territory, and it’s pretty hard to get a 3 and 1 year old walk quietly or keep still apart from tying them down and then you’ll have to deal with the screaming unless I gag them, and might I mention that it’s four in the afternoon? You can’t reasonably expect it to be super quiet at that time of day and can I offer you a pair of earplugs?”
I may have had to pray and let go of some stuff after that encounter. Especially since we had already unpacked everything and now had to repack it all. BUT…I knew it would be better than barking at the kids every 2 seconds to “Be quiet! You’ll disturb the lady downstairs!”
Night one, I got like 2 hours of sleep in between trying to nurse G to sleep because she refused to sleep in her pack n’ play, and not wake her up as she’s sleeping sideways in our bed, but I asked the Lord for energy and I actually felt pretty good that day which was completely supernatural (because I get pretty grouchy at the 6 hours or less mark!) Also I was taking Super C, and Inner Defense capsules, and dousing myself in oils preventatively, which I think really helped also!
But, the second and third nights were MUCH better. I may still have had to sleep across the foot of the bed because G was taking my place in it, but still…many more hours of sleep than I thought!
We bundled the kids up (with our ragtag makeshift snow clothes cuz Phoenix dwellers!) and let them enjoy the snow three or four separate times.
We got everyone in swimsuits and bundled up and walked across to another building that housed a heated pool. Before the trip when I heard they had a pool, I was planning on swimming everyday while we were there. Once we got there and realized that it was in a separate building with no bathrooms, or changing rooms, and it was SNOWING, I re-evaluated and decided I still wanted to embrace the adventure and do it, but ONCE was enough! =)
I am sooo glad we did though because it glass all around and super steamy inside and we could see it snowing and piling up as we were swimming which was pretty cool. After awhile as as those piles of snow started falling off the roof, we decided we should probably head back to the safety and warmth of our room!
There was some Curious George watching, but we also made copious amounts of hot chocolate and cooked fajitas in our room (don’t tell anyone!) and enjoyed the heck out of the free hot breakfasts they offered, and drove around and played in the snow, and threw snowballs, and laughed like crazy.
And before we left, we went to a park still covered in snow and swung and climbed, and threw more snowballs and overall, it was a much better success than I had hoped. If I had let my expectations for it pile up though, I would have been grouchy and disappointed and frustrated. Instead, most of the time I was able to embrace it and push through some of the wet, sometimes frustrating and uncomfortable things and just enjoy it.
Be careful of expectations. I know firsthand where they can lead, but if we change our perspective and ideas about it, we can cultivate a grateful heart and a flexible spirit. I’m not perfect at it by any means, but I’ve come a long way from a few years ago (in this area at least) and in looking back at this trip, I can do so with fond memories of making the most of what we had and enjoying each other.
A few practical tips:
-Mentally prepare and change your mindset to focusing on enjoying all the bits and pieces however they come and whatever they look like.
-Plan ahead for what food/toys/books/ect… you are packing for the car.
-Have enough but dole them out ONLY as needed! Let them use their imaginations or zone out if they will. Save the stuff for when you are going to pull your hair out or you have to keep one from waking up another!
-Have some HAPPY music and put it on when you need some extra energy or to help get out of a funk. It really helps me. Also, singing worship songs together helps me refocus.
-Be realistic about sleeping. Mistake I made that first day was nursing G and she fell asleep on me for two hours and then wasn’t tired enough to sleep well that night. Night sleep is the one you really want to go well. If you have to skip a nap to make sure they are tired enough, so be it. But, it also may take trial and error to figure out what is going to work. So really, just don’t expect to sleep much!
-If you don’t sleep much, see if you can work it out with your spouse to take turns watching the kids so the other one can have a nap!
-Realize you probably can’t do all the things you would like to do. Keep a list of options that you can choose from but DON’T expect to get to everything.
-Try to keep your room at least a little bit organized. It helps with the chaos when you’re stuck in your room all day and trying to find the one lone sippy cup, or book that they wanted.
-Take a “Mommy Timeout”. Even just five minutes to refocus can help me shift my attitude away from the grumpy place and back into the enjoying our time together and being grateful place.
-Reset the car before you go. Clean out the trash, get everything re-organized and ready for the trip back. You’ll be happy you did, I promise!
-You will probably be more tired when you get back than when you left. Plan for that in your schedule. Give yourself some down time after you get back so you can recover and re-enter.
-Give everyone grace. Yourself, your husband, your kids. Everyone is likely to get a little on edge at some point, but this is where we can practice extending grace!
What are some of your tips for traveling with little ones or letting go of expectations? I’d love to hear some of your stories!
I hope these give you some helpful ideas for enjoying your next trip with littles or bigs even more! =)