How to be Adventurous When Mama Loves Her Schedule
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 seven years (and four 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) every day 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’ve got to 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 be ultimately 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 five 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 9 am, 1 pm, and 5 pm? 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 8:00 pm 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 for 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 four 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.
Regarding 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 5:00 pm and doesn’t know why.
For the babies:
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 nine months or so can only handle being awake for about 2 hours. If the baby is up at 3 am for a flight, I make sure to get her down at 4 am (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:
Yes, when traveling there will be snacks. Lots of snack and lollipops and eating on the go. By nature of food allergies, we are 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 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 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.
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 grows 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 family adventures!).
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This post was syndicated with permission to BonBon Break Media, LLC.