When I was four-years-old, my family moved to a large house on a dirt road in a small province in the Philippines.
The leaves of mango trees were glossy green, and coconut trees reached their branches for the clouds. On the hot days of the dry season, we felt the sweat trickle down our necks as we sat in front of electric fans. Wet season brought with it daily rain and regular typhoons, the kind that blew trees and electric lines down. Our basement would flood, and we had an assembly line passing buckets along until we emptied it.
We told the tricycle drivers to take us to Guadalupe, and directed them after a fork in the road to go right, down a slight hill, and stop at the rusted brown gate on the right. Like most houses in the Philippines, there was a tall wall all around the property. At the top of the wall, broken glass pieces had been embedded into the cement when the wall was built, a supposed deterrent to robbers and drug addicts scaling it at night.
To the left was our neighbour Ka Loreng who had a sari-sari store (literal translation, “variety of things” store) where people bought shampoo in sachets, candy, corn bits in little orange bags and on the hottest day of the year my mother would take us there to buy soda, which Ka Loreng poured into plastic bags. We sipped it out of straws while we walked down the road.
Across the street was Evie and her three kids, a bit further down the road was her sister-in-law Jubi and her kids. There was a large field next to Evie’s house with corn crops and sometimes, sugar cane.
To the right of our our house was a plot of land, and three families lived there in several ramshackle huts, in the Philippines they were called squatters. I remember the women, Nanay Ange and Teri, and a girl a little older than me, Leah. The walls were flimsy pieces of cardboard-like wood nailed together, the roofs, corrugated metal. There were no ceilings, some of the floors were long pieces of bamboo patched together, some of the floors were the earth of the ground, flattened slightly. Each hut was one room, mothers, fathers, children all lived together. There was no electricity and no running water.
How many cities have I watched disappear into that fog in my lifetime? I can buckle my seatbelt with my eyes closed.
When I was a little girl, we only listened to Christian music. I used to think in tiny boxes, a pile of black ones on one side and a pile of white ones on the other side. But airplanes were one of the few times I got a taste of the music that was out there. On a British Airways flight from Sri Lanka to London, I first heard those words, Got a picture of you beside me, got your lipstick marks still on your coffee cup. This was back in the day when each channel on an airplane radio station had a set one-hour or so play list and it played on a loop. It was a total delight to an uncool one like me, I would wait and wait for the song I wanted to hear and delight in the fact that I could hear it multiple times before the flight was over.
Whatever I said, whatever I did, I didn’t mean it. I just want you back for good.
It was over a decade later when I found out it was Take That who sang those words, but wherever I am even today if I hear Gary Barlow’s mellow voice singing, I guess now it’s time for me to give up, I am 13 again, a geeky country Filipina girl with long frizzy hair sitting on an airplane, wondering where she belonged because when your life is in boxes but you aren’t a square, you get left out of your own story.
I scratched out the words in my journal. It was the best song I had ever heard.
It is 2001. Train releases Drops of Jupiter, and I listen to the radio now. I’ve wanted it that way, known the meaning of being lonely, and said bye, bye, bye to friends in Manila, Philippines and friends in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It’s another flight, United, I think, and I listen to Drops of Jupiter again and again and again.
Now that she’s back from her soul vacation, tracing her way through the constellation…
I am sailing tens of thousands of kilometers in the air, and I can pretend that this is my story, somewhere there is a nonexistent person – preferably he is tall and resembles George Clooney (grace please, I was 17) – and he’s waiting for me to land while I look for myself out there. Because I used to think an adventure was needed for change to come, it needed to be big, bold and radical for it to be real.
Those were the years when flying meant leisurely hours to watch movies, sleep, crochet and read books. Or to just stare out the window and think about nothing. But this is 2015. Not this flight, not with Little Bear clutching at my clothes as he tries to fall asleep. We cried our tears and said goodbye to Husband’s family, the boys run through security, and delightedly climb into their seats next to the oval windows. Big Boy gets his seat belt on without my help, he’s only interested to see if Cars is on the Emirates media program. It is. Little Bear sits in my lap and plays with my face, with his seat belt, with anything he can touch.
Wheels are off the ground, and I grab the headphones to find music. I’ve hardly listened to any music in the past five years. Beyonce has songs other than Crazy in Love? What? A song called Roar? Who is Katy Perry? I’m mid-30 and have two kids, is that a good excuse?
So this flight I go to the CD of the year, 1989 by Taylor Swift. I listened to it for most of the six hour flight to Dubai and again on the 13-hour flight to Melbourne. Apparently my old habits haven’t died.
Because here I am, wife, mother, woman, moving yet again. The world is a bed of clouds under this piece of machine, and I am taking flight. Higher, higher.
I used to think in boxes of black and white and stories that were big and bold, but now I am small, a speck of molecules and dust zooming through the clouds, living, loving, learning and it is time to meet the next change. There is no morality prize, no medal for pretend heroism, only the reward that comes from slow, painful growth.
This post is day 23. New to the series? Start here. Thanks to all of you who have shared these posts and commented, I so appreciate it. Do say hello if you’ve been reading or are new. It would be lovely to meet you. If you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.
Well, after months of planning, we are finally here. Feet on Australian soil. It feels good. The almost 24-hour-trip over here did not feel so good, especially not the three-hour delay in Dubai. At midnight. Thank you Qantas.
But we are here, the sun is shining, and so far everyone speaks English. YES. It’s the little things I’ve missed.
I had grand plans of posting wise thoughts today, but the reality is that I am exhausted, both of my boys are asleep for the night – in Jesus name amen – which means the smartest thing for me to do right now is to go to sleep.
I’ll leave you with this lovely looking giveaway from the sweet people at Dayspring. It is open to anyone who lives overseas, but please note that you will have to pay for shipping and any taxes on the cost of the products. So please do keep that in mind.
DaySpring.com is celebrating all of the amazing Write 31 Days readers who are supporting nearly 2,000 writers this October! To enter to win a $500 DaySpring shopping spree, just click on this link & follow the giveaway widget instructions. Good luck, and thanks for reading!
This post is day 22. New to the series? Start here. Thanks to all of you who have shared these posts and commented, I so appreciate it. Do say hello if you’ve been reading or are new. It would be lovely to meet you. We are somewhere in the air between Europe and Australia today, so do keep us in your prayers if that is your thing. The posts are scheduled for the next few days, but if there are some computer glitches it may interfere with posting. Moderating comments will also take a bit longer than normal. Please keep checking in to see. And if you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.
We have been flying with our boys since Big Boy was three months old. They have flown on numerous one and two-hour flights within Europe, and we have traveled as a family to and from Europe to Sri Lanka and Australia three times. The last trip to Australia, I flew with them on my own first to Sri Lanka and then to Australia.
Still I do not consider myself an expert on this subject. I have many opinions, yes, but I think our boys are fairly low maintenance when it comes to flying. It could be that they are obsessed with airplanes and all modes of transportation in general (most of which, except for boats, can be found at an airport), or it could be that I have an irrational amount of enthusiasm when it comes to family flights.
I grew up traveling, and the moving part was always stressful, but the flying part was fun. It started at the airport when we all breathed a collective sigh of relief that the packing was done, the bags were through, and now we get to explore. My dad would show us the airplanes, we counted take offs and landings and watched airport TV (we didn’t have one in our home).
On the plane there were movies to watch, and this was before personal TV screens, and airplane food to eat. It all seemed so glamorous. But more than that, my parents were always cheerful on flights, I have no memories of any family fighting or annoyances when we were on an airplane, and on the contrary, they are some of my happiest, adventure-filled memories.
So after that long preamble, here are some tips, and as always, please chime in in the comments with tips of your own.
Watch Your Attitude
Our kids pick up on our attitude. If you are anxious, they will be anxious. If you are worried, they will react to this stress. There’s nothing wrong with experiencing anxiety or worry or fear when flying, this is totally normal, but find a way to deal with it. Talk to someone before the flight. Pray. Have a list of truths you meditate on. Choose to engage with your kids. Watch airplanes take off and land. Skip trying to read your magazine in peace, and wander around with them. My guess is you have absolutely nothing to do in the airport except be there. Be all there. Enjoy yourself. Make the trip something fun and exciting for them, you don’t need any toys or gadgets to get them through this. The airport, however boring and un-kid-friendly it may be, provides enough distractions on its own. Look an escalator! Look a moving pavement! Let’s go up and down it! Look lots of airplanes! Let’s sit and watch! I may or may not have uttered all of those statements at some point or another when I was flying alone with the boys to Australia.
Pack the Right Supplies for You
You know you and you know your kids, so pack accordingly. Messes don’t really bother me, so I don’t take lots of changes of clothes. And for some reason, my kids are not incredibly messy. Little Bear managed to get his pack of water open and spill half of it on himself while I was getting his brother’s food ready, but it was water, and he was wearing fleece pants. Fleece dries very quickly, I discovered, and now fleece is his flying uniform.
I pack one change of clothes for them, so an extra t-shirt and pants, an extra set of underwear for my oldest, and lots of diapers and wipes. I pack usually an extra shirt for me, but I wear dark jeans or black pants and just let that be. I pack a notebook each for the boys, a box of crayons or colouring pens, and a lot of stickers. The stickers I found got me through some of the toughest times in the airport (waiting in line to board the plane when there is no priority boarding for families for example). But the one thing you don’t want is to be overloaded with stuff on the plane. If you are traveling alone, it is a monumental hassle to schlep the stuff around plus the kids, and regardless, it is simply too much to sort through even when you are on the plane. I did take an iPad, but only Little Bear used it for a few minutes because…
On airplanes my answer is basically yes, yes, yes ofcourse and yes WOULDYOULIKEACRACKERWITHTHAT? We gave our kids no screen time in the airport, that was for running around, eating and whining, but on the plane they could watch as many movies as they wanted. Big Boy fell asleep for the night watching a movie. We didn’t even have to “put him to sleep.” On our 14-hour flight from Melbourne to Dubai, he woke up halfway through his sleep, and we put another movie on and he fell asleep again within 30 minutes. My boys are so different though, and their ages make their attitudes to screens very different. Little Bear will watch something for 10 minutes, and oh how I desperately tried to get him into Nemo! And Baloo the bear! And all kinds of cheery animals! But he spent most of his time bouncing on the seat. Big Boy though, it was like having a zoned out teenager next to me who held out his hand mindlessly every now and then to ask for a snack.
A long leash
Not the real kind. I give my kids a lot of freedom in airports and airplanes as long as they are in my sight and not trying to open an airplane door. A lot of freedom. Bounce on a chair? Yes. Stand on the tray table? No problem. Walk up and down the aisles as much as you want? BEMYGUEST. Up to the point that they are becoming a nuisance to someone else or breaking something, I let them do whatever they want. This was more appropriate for my two-year-old because as previously mentioned, the four-year-old was glued to his screen. It helped him maintain a cheerful attitude to just be able to do what he wanted on the flight. So far we have only had wonderful experiences with fellow passengers, many of them have even engaged our kids in play and talked to them. I would do differently if there was someone who clearly was unhappy about Little Bear trying to play peekaboo over the edge of the seat (or something else).
I packed about 20 fruit pouches or fruit and yoghurt pouches (that were 100ml or under), rice crackers and something else that I cannot remember. For our trip to Australia this week, I have apple rings, dried mango, nuts, a variety of crackers and salami sticks. Because I discovered on our last trip that my oldest doesn’t really eat plane food. We will be traveling for about 24 hours straight, including one 14 hour flight, so we know we need enough food on hand for our kids if they end up refusing to eat their food. While it is definitely worth it to stand my ground at our dinner table when I have fussy kids, I choose my battles when I am thousands of feet off the ground. And in a closed space. My kid and I do not need a control battle over food in an airplane.
Try to sleep
As tempting as it is to want to watch a movie myself when my kids start sleeping, I still think choosing sleep is the best idea. The toughest part about flying, for me, isn’t the flight, it’s the part on the other side. When my kids don’t sleep enough. Or are stressed out about the new environment. Or are still too tired. And there are no more fun and exciting diversions. I need to be as well rested as possible to be able to handle them if they fall apart.
Have a set up on the other side
We learned this our first trip to Australia simply because we didn’t realize our baby would want to go to sleep in a real crib when we landed. Always have something set up in the place where you are headed. Communicate clearly with the people you are going to see to make sure that at least your kids have a crib or a bed somewhere in case they need to go straight to sleep. Try to have one or two toys that someone has borrowed for you on hand. It has been wonderful for us to have our families at the end of our trips, they have helped us and carried the load of child care from the beginning. And cooked us good food.
Now it’s your turn: What are your best air travel tips? Let’s hear them.
This post is day 21. New to the series? Start here. The last few weeks I’ve written about the emotions involved with moving and transition, there have been tips about what to do to prepare to leave and ideas about how to end your time in a place. This week we are looking at the actual move, how to get where we need to go and the tools we need along the way. Thanks to all of you who have shared these posts and commented, I so appreciate it. Do say hello if you’ve been reading or are new. It would be lovely to meet you. We are flying today to Australia, so do keep us in your prayers if that is your thing. I’ve got posts scheduled for the next few days, but if there are some computer glitches it may interfere with posting. Please keep checking in to see. And if you want hundreds of other great 31 Days topics, you can find them here.
There are approximately a 2,334,432 blog posts out there on car travel with kids, so why write another one? I’ve learned since having kids that all parents have tricks, and the tricks are different. It helps me immensely to hear what others are doing because it gives me ideas.
So today’s post are some of the things that have worked for us on longer road trips with kids. The boys were four and two on these trips and in rear facing car seats, meaning we couldn’t see their faces. I would love it if you could join in the conversation in the comments section with your tips on how to manage car travel with kids.
This is basically the only piece of advice necessary to navigate all marriage and children-related dilemmas. Expectations determine your experiences, and for something that involves small children locked into a seat for indefinite amounts of time, I’ve found that keeping my expectations next to nothing goes along way. My goals are lofty, like, Get there. With no car accidents. Amen.
Know Your Kids
I have one son who is extremely sensory, as in his favourite thing ever is to jump into a ball pit or something textured and just roll his body all over it. My other son is off the charts auditory, wants to talk all the time and loves listening to music and stories. My sensory child needs something to hold and touch when he is traveling. He has shorts with zippered cargo pockets, I put some rocks or other things in those pockets, he opened the zippers, took the rocks out, put them back in, it was a sensory dream that cost nothing. My other son needs good music and audio books (more on that further down), he needs reassuring words from me, my tone of voice is so important when I communicate with him.
Both our kids will still sleep in the car, and because their sleep was so off with the moving around, often they slept even more in the car than they normally would. We tried to plan our driving to maximize nap time. It was also the only time we could listen to something other than Psalty the Singing Songbook. Praise ye the Lord, Hallelujah. More on that later.
Remove Time Pressure
I’m not against wanting to arrive at a certain place by a certain time, but if I want to have a relaxed drive where I am not going to resent my kids or drive for hours with unrelenting screaming in my ears, I will have to relax my attitude on time. If something is supposed to take four hours, with our kids, it will probably take six or seven hours. This way we know that when we arrive at our destination, our kids feel loved, they’ve had a good trip, and we have had a tour of the truck stops of Germany. For our drive from Sweden to Germany (via Denmark), we had two ferry crossings on two separate days, we booked the crossings in advance with flexible timing, but we still had a vague idea of needing to be at a certain place at a certain time. We over-budgeted by about two hours, and that way when we did arrive at the ferries, we were not stressed, and the boys were overjoyed to see a boat.
No Sensory Overload
Travel is a sensory overload on its own, there is no need for me to stress my kids out further by expensive toys for the road, lights and unnecessary loud noises. They are entertained and interested in the most mundane of things, often the travel itself. The ferries were a huge hit and came at the end of long drives, so it was the entertainment for the duration of the boat trip. We like to keep the trip as calm and normal as possible.
No Screens (sort of)
I am not into parent shaming, and I have nothing against the use of screens at all. I happily hand our one iPad mini to the boys to give me time to get dinner together or to stave off temper tantrum hour or to let me catch my breath for 30 minutes. Or an hour. Or. Nevermind. My kids watch untold hours of movies on airplanes, but we have found that on car trips keeping the screens off is better for them. They are more easily worn out by car travel, their patience is thinner, and their attitudes are more grumpy than gracious. Screen time makes fatigue and attitudes that much worse. I prefer to use screen time when my kids are well rested and in a good mood. It has worked much better for us to have a big supply of books on hand and to keep passing books to them. We also had an etch-a-sketch that worked for Little Bear.
Music and Audio Books
We hit the jackpot with a friend’s gift to us of a Finding Nemo audio CD, it was our first foray into the world of audio books, and it was such a hit with both our sons. We will definitely invest in more radio plays and audio books for future car trips. I also pulled out a kids CD we hadn’t listened to in a long time, and it became their favourite CD, so much so that it is all they wanted to listen to for about five hours on end. Husband says Psalty’s Little Praisers CD is now his favourite CD, and while I think that is definitely stretching it, I have never been more thankful for the blue Singing Songbook or for the chance to hear my kids singing, Jesus loves me this I know, softly from the backseat.
Again, I am not into parent shaming, so please feed your kids whatever you think is best. Apple chips, dried mango and other fruits, nuts, lots of water, rice crackers, and other crackers have all gone down very, very well with the boys. And I do think that the food they eat helps to keep their mood a bit more even. This may seem obvious to you – I am not always the most prepared parent out there – but packing many snacks was a necessity. We can always use the snacks we didn’t use, so nothing went to waste. We tried to stop for meals, which ended up being French fries, French friends, and also some French fries, so as I mentioned before, I am really not into parent shaming. Do what you have to do.
Rest Stops and Running Breaks
Every time we stopped, we made sure to get the kids to run around a bit. Even if it was just in a simple patch of grass or concrete. I even ran up and down with them once to get them into it. If your rest stops have playgrounds, even better. Most of ours did, but one or two did not, but kids can still get movement in without a playground.
Now it’s your turn: What are your parenting tricks for car survival with little ones? And car survival for yourself?