Friday, July 7, 2017

Road Trip Anxiety


I will be honest... I get stressed, anxious, and worried about road trips.  Didn't happen much until I had kids.  Even then, after having one kid, road trip adventures didn't seem so bad.  I even got the nerve up to go on a few on my own.  Just my son and I.  Granted, the drive wasn't more than 5 hours.  But I tackled them.

Sure, even when traveling there is some worry and some stress.  It goes with the territory and goes with being a parent.  How would they do?  What will I do if they scream the entire time?  How do I entertain them? What if I am traveling alone with them? What if naps are shorter than expected, or hoped for? And the questions just keep going.

Now with two kiddos, I take a week to pack.  I am packing for three people and worry I will be forgetting something.  I even make lists, and sometimes, my lists have list.  Sometimes, I just have to take on the mentality, it is what it is.  If it's a disaster, oh well.  Hopefully some of the time we spent where we were headed was at least good, even if the car ride sucked.  And almost always there is a Wal-mart or the like if we forget something.  If we have the kids important stuff , loveys, stuffies, and nuks, well that is good enough.

I started road trips on my own with two kiddos this year after the first of the year.  A short 3 1/2 trip, that can be done mostly during nap time with a stop part way for lunch at a McDonald's with a play area.  Doable.  Worried some, but doable.  We have a DVD player in the car, so my oldest could watch something while my youngest would nap (and I would pray he would sleep for as much of the first part as possible).

When we planned our longer road trip in June and had the shorter one the end of May, I thought good, still on two naps that should help.  Um...nope, he had dropped a nap about mid May.  If he fell asleep in the car he was either tired because he was up too early, sick, or not going to nap again that day.

So when we got closer to the one in June, everything hit a high of all the emotions.  I was excited, yet filled with a lot of stress and worry.  You see, we were going to be gone 11 days.  That is a long time for a kiddo to be a way from home.  My oldest, up this point, didn't do well with change and sleeping in a different place.  My youngest, well, the last time we were going for a chunk of time, we spent the next week or so getting him reacquainted with his room again. Plus, there were times the kids would share a room or all of us would...all new concepts for them both.  I was thankful we were starting and ending the trip out a my parent's house (a somewhat familiar place for both).

We were down to one nap officially.  Which was great for the days we didn't drive anywhere and we could extend our adventures, but for the days that were more than 3 hours of drive time, well I was scared.  The first day, we had 5 hours of driving and the second day we had 7 1/2.  How in the world will we pass the time and not have to stop every hour?  Fortunately, the rest of the driving was 3 hour chunks every other day and could be done during nap time for both kids

Even now as I type this, I can feel my heart rate rising slightly and the anxiousness returning.  Somehow, by the grace of God, we did pretty decent with the travel and accommodations.  The kids did get a little squirrely as the week went on when it came to being back in the car by the end of the week.  Which resulted in an extra stop and some vanilla shakes to bribe them back in for the last little bit of the drive. The kids managed to make the 7 1/2 hours with only one stop at lunch time.  It still amazes me how long in between bathroom breaks my oldest at 4 can go.  We figured if they were mostly content we would just keep plugging along, and we did.  We even packed outside toy activities in case we had to make extra stops.  Then again, whenever we take a road trip, we always pack a soccer ball just in case we need to get out and run around.  I also hit of the dollar store to create road trip activity bags (you can read more about that in this post Road Trips ~ How to Save Your Sanity With Tips and Tricks For the Ride)

For some reason, both kids were up early the first day we were heading out.  Which, actually worked out alright because then my oldest zoned out to a DVD and took a decent afternoon nap, while my youngest took two decent naps as well.  And because of this, they went to bed early.  Which led to being up early the next day, and we could head out earlier and my youngest did two naps again.  Everything reset itself that night because the two shared a room together for the first time and having not spent a lot of energy for the day, took a bit longer to fall asleep.

The kids did better than expected with the accommodations, but we were all ready for our own rooms by the end of the week, as well as not having to be as concerned about the volume (and noise) created by two younger kids in a hotel room.  I am thankful that for some of the trip we had a suite so we could split up a little.  Most of the days they were so tired and worn out from the adventures that it didn't take long to fall asleep for both nap and bedtime.

We survived the vacation, we survived the drive, we actually had a decent amount of fun and were all happy to be back home (except my youngest, who need to get reacquainted with his room again).

I know a lot of my anxiety was me, my brain trailing off, and creating scenarios.  But even in the day to day we go over bumps, delays, and other unexpected things.  So, why would it all go away when we go on vacation?

Vacations are an adventure.  Usually people use them to reduce the worry, anxiety, and stress.  To relax and reboot.  But how does one do that with kiddos.  It sounds kind of funny, vacation and two kids under 5.

Well, it is possible to have a vacation, to go on adventures, to reduce the stress and the like, to relax and reboot.  It takes a change of perspective.  It takes knowing that you are still running on the same schedule and that you will face the same problems you do at home.  It takes having some flexibility and a whole lot of grace.  It takes lowering some of your own expectations.

Fill your vacation with things that you all enjoy or that you think the kids will enjoy.  For us, if we are outside, everyone is happy.  Give my kids water, sand or dirt, sticks life is good.  So we can go hike or camp.  We can go spend time along one of the lakes.  Both my kids love boats.  Both love collecting rocks (especially my youngest).  My oldest is getting into lighthouses and has a fascination for cars (especially old ones).  My youngest is starting to get into cars too.  So we filled out vacation with all those things.  So many of these things, we enjoy too.

We stayed in Detroit and watched some big cargo ships come in and saw a couple of lighthouses.  We visited the Henry Ford Museum, which for my kids the look on their face was better than on Christmas.  Can't lie, I felt the same way too.  We drove up to Port Huron so we could put our feet in another great lake.  We had already stepped in Lake Erie on our way to Detroit and we knew we would set foot in Lake Michigan at the end of the trip, so why not try for another one.  Plus that gave us a chance to see another lighthouse.  We even we got to climb up one of the lighthouses.  We went to a giant splash pad, had dinner at a train station where they are known for their pizza and the kids got to play with pizza dough before they ate, and built sand lighthouses.  We even did the unthinkable, we had ice cream before dinner one night.  But when you are on vacation, why not.

I even finished a book and began another one.  I had time to think quietly.  I had time to go off on my own for a little bit.  I ran through the splash pad, had many laughs along the way.  I had fun.  I even learned how to unplug from emails and facebook.  While I do love to write (which I did some of that too), I knew I needed the time from trying to always catch up on social media.

So will this stop me from having anxiety, stress, and worry leading up to a road trip or even while on one?  No, it will still be there.  But I also have a better footing in the let it go side of it.  I can settle in on the fact that there will be less of it, less chance of it getting to me, and less chance of it holding me back from the true moment of it.

Now, I am not saying every moment was perfect and without a hitch.  We had some off moments, some rough ones, and some that pushed everyone just a little too far.  But despite it all, it's not the part we remember.  And we really did enjoy our trip.

You know what, you can too.  Happy and safe travels and adventures this Summer!