Today I’m so pleased to welcome my dear friend Kristine to the blog. She is writing a post that I just can’t, because getting a good schedule AND allowing for travel and adventure is REALLY tough for us. Really, really tough. But, she has the routine down, and it’s been inspiration to watch her weave an element of adventure into that recently – I am always learning from her! As always, please feel free to leave her some love in the comments and do check out her blog – her writing is fun to read and leaves you walking away feeling like you CAN handle life after all.
Before my husband and I had babies we would always talk about how flexible we would be and how our kids would never cramp our lifestyle. Forget that our lifestyle wasn’t all that glamorous to begin with but that didn’t matter – the little bambinos would just have to fit in and deal. Weeeeellllll, flash forward 7 years (and 4 kids) later, that is so not how we parent.
You see, it took a lot of trial and error (and tears and wanting to give kids back) before we realized that we are the type of parents, the type of family that does better on a schedule. We love us some good routines and we find that our kids love them some good routines, too. Nap schedules, set bedtimes, doing the same thing (almost) everyday were what subsequently made us thrive and grow best as a family.
Now, before I go on I know not all mamas and papas are this way. And that’s fine. You gotta find what works best for you and your little ones and all will be good in the end. It’s no use trying to put yourself in a parenting box in which you don’t fit – from sleeping to schooling to scheduling (or not) we are all on our own (parenting) journey. But I will say from experience that developing and adopting routines and schedules has allowed us and our children to ultimately be more flexible than if we didn’t have them.
So, for us, the schedule is the way to go.
As our children get older (they are currently almost 7, almost 5, almost 3, and 5 months) we want them to be able to have amazing and wonderful experiences in the world in which they live. From little to big, simple to not, we want their little eyes and hearts to be open to nature (we have a lot of that living in the PNW) to culture to different ethnic groups and to worlds other than their own.
But how does a family do that when the baby naps religiously at 9am, 1pm, and 5pm? Or that the toddler NEEDS A REST from 2-4pm or he will drive you (even more) crazy? Or that the big kids are stick-a-fork-in-them-done by 8:00pm and are clamoring for their bed? All it takes is a little bit of effort, a little bit of planning, a lot of bit of laughter, and the understanding that nothing will ever be perfect. And that’s OK,…it’s an adventure, right?! Adventures are never perfect and that’s what makes them so…memorable.
The first thing we realized as parents with kids who love their routines is that good sleep (or at least rest) and good food are numero uno and dos. Overtired, overstimulated, super grumpy children are no fun. When traveling it’s not always possible to schedule everything around nap times so usually I have to pick and choose. Depending on the age level and what we’re up to, here are some key tips we’ve found to make adventuring better on everyone:
For the big kids:
They get overstimulated too. Try to schedule (there’s that word again) in some down time throughout the day for them to chill out and decompress. This could be with a movie, or a simple 30 minute rest, or silly putty, or books and if they can do this by themselves (not easy when you have 4 kids) even better. Our kids understand the concept of “alone time” and will ask for it when need be. Alone time can happen in a tent or on a beach or on the windowsill of a hotel room or in the back of a car. But it’s time for them to recharge and just be.
In terms of sleep times, if we wake them up early we try to put them early to bed. If the toddler misses his afternoon nap we try to make sure to give him some extra grace (and perhaps avoid anything too crazy in the afternoon) for when he just wants to melt down at 5:00pm and doesn’t know why.
For the baby:
Understanding baby wake-times has been the key element of our success in traveling with a newborn/infant. Most babies up to 5 months can only handle 1-1 ½ hours of wake time before they get overtired (and start wailing) and even up until 9 months or so can only handle being awake for about 2 hours. If the baby is up at 3am for a flight I make sure to get her down at 4am (whether in the backpack/sling/carrier/my arms) for a little nap and then I keep that process up until we get to our destination and can get back on track. Whether she’s slept for 30 minutes or two hours I stick to the wake-time rule and we usually never have any meltdowns or baby issues. And I mean, usually. You never can prevent it all so if it does happen you put on pink lipstick, smile, and joke about the large gin and tonic you will pour yourself upon arrival.
Other baby travel tips:
Having a sleep routine at home carries over to sleep success on the go, as well. When our 5 month old starts to get swaddled and hears the lull of the white noise app (XOXO to my iPad) she starts yawning no matter if she’s at home or at grandma’s or in the hotel bathroom or in my arms. Adopting a routine at home that can be translated to just about anywhere allows us to get out without screwing the baby over for her much needed nap time.
Keep it simple stupid. (No offense, I’m not really calling you stupid.) I figure all our baby needs at this point is sleep, nursing, and a few changes of clothes. I make sure to pack light (but I pack three extra outfits in my carry on for her and one for me *just in case*) because there is no worse feeling than having a screaming baby and having to dig through a bag full-o-shiz just to find the nursing cover.
For the food:
Yes, when traveling there will be snacks. Lots of snack and lollipops and eating on the go. By nature of food allergies we are a gluten and dairy free family and I’ve found this has helped tremendously in avoiding sugar-induced meltdowns. Since we don’t eat a lot of processed food at home I don’t mind packing the super fun GF pretzels and fruit roll ups and anything else to make them happy and excited to be doing something boring until we get to someplace fun. But I also don’t overdo it – I actually try harder when on the go to make sure they still get healthy things to eat.
Because when you combine crappy sleep with crappy food you are guaranteed to get crappy kids.
For the parents:
HAVE A GOOD ATTITUDE. Laughter and sarcasm have been my biggest ally in traveling. I used to get so uptight about disrupting my children’s routines. But when I realized that everything would be fine in the end (and if it’s not then it will be when we get back home!) I was able to let it go and enjoy the ride. Crap is going to happen and babies are going to cry and things might suck but by staying happy and grateful it turns a bad situation into (to quote my husband) an adventure.
This one is for the mom. Hopefully. WEAR PINK (or red or purple) LIPSTICK. Seriously, it makes people think you have your stuff together (when really you’re just praying that she won’t scream). But in all seriousness it totally helps. It lifts the mood, makes me feel less tired, and I swear the baby was into it (c’mon she is a girl). Plus the stuff I have doesn’t come off when I kiss her a ba-gillion times.
And finally, know that most people love children and think they are a blessing. I think we assume people hate seeing a baby walk onto a plane and while that may be the case, if *I* smile and am happy and greet people with joy and sing and coo to her (but don’t worry, I don’t coo to the big kids) then they pretty much respond the same way.
Sooooo, I hope this helps. There is so much of this great, big, amazing world to see and it would be a shame to let anything hold us back from experiencing it with our kids – especially the not-so-silly need for naps. Adventuring with children isn’t always easy but the memories made, the bond created, the laughter produced, the crying endured, and the downright crazy experiences shared will only ensure a family grow closer to one another.
In fact, we have found adventuring and being together to be so crucial to our success as a family that we have named 2015 the Year of the Mauss Family Adventure. One weekend a month is blocked out for us to explore together, along with some other crazy plans up our sleeve. I hope you can follow along and join us (and perhaps find some inspiration for your own family adventures!) over at our blog, The Fire Within.
Hi! I’m Kristine! I am a wife to a stud husband, a mother of four blondies, an (ultra) marathoner, and a lover of the Lord. I love the trails at sunrise, I cry over spilled milk, and I wear my heart on my sleeve. You can spy on me over at The Fire Within where we chat about everything from faith and family to daily living and mom-style. Welcome to a glimpse of our crazy life.
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