True Deal Mommy Confession: I threw the Deal Kids’ soccer ball into a ravine. To be fair they were warned. Still, it’s not my finest parenting moment. But it did get me thinking. Just like nobody shows their B side on Facebook, nobody tells the truth about long term family travel.
Long Term Family Travel Sucks Sometimes.
It doesn’t suck much more than it does, but I try to keep it real here. And there are times long term family travel sucks. Not in the needing a hospital kind of way but in the “if these kids don’t shut up I’m gonna throw their soccer ball off of a cliff” kind of way. The Deal Kids are 10 and 13 but it’s been the same since our first Camp Mom four years ago : they get on each other’s nerves constantly, which means collectively they get on mine.
When I feel my own temperature rising I try really hard to remember one thing:
It’s Not (Usually) The Kids’ Fault
Let’s face it: 24 hours a day together for five weeks is a lot even for most married couples. And they chose each other. Siblings didn’t. The two Deal Kids are each spectacular people individually. I love spending time with each of them.
That said, they are two differently spectacular people. They engage with the world in a much different manner.
For Deal Girl everything really IS awesome. Her excitement meter goes to 11 and she wants the world to know it! I so admire her boundless confidence and absolute fearlessness.
Deal Kid is much more contemplative. He holds his emotion cards close to the vest. If you get a “pretty good” from him the item in question must be a 10. Deal Kid is actually much better on press trips because he has an unbiased eye. He’s hilarious, thoughtful and engaging, but in a much more analytical way.
As you might imagine the cheerleader in Deal Girl drives Deal Kid crazy because she just won’t calm down. And Deal Girl is constantly wondering why Deal Kid is such a jerk. They’re both right, and they’re both wrong. It’s my job to understand that and navigate the chasm between them. My progress report is decidedly mixed.
How I Keep the Pressure Cooker from Exploding
Over the last four years I’ve developed some coping strategies for when it just gets too much. I’m sharing these with you in the hopes you can better manage your own long term family travels. I’d love to hear your tips as well because I have two more weeks of travel!
I’ve mentioned before that we’ve moved from hotels to vacation rentals where possible. I’ve gone a step further and started searching for properties that give the kids each their own bedroom. The cost is marginal compared to the sanity savings.
Give Each Kid Time When You Can
Nature is giving me a break here. Deal Girl wakes up earlier than Deal Kid and Deal Kid stays up later. I try to engage with both of them on the edges of the day as it’s solo time I can’t give them otherwise.
As I type this Deal Girl is coloring next to me. Deal Kid is still sleeping so she’s talking a mile a minute about everything and nothing. Last night Deal Girl fell asleep in the car on the way back from star-gazing so Deal Kid and I joked for an hour in the car. He even let a nugget drop: there’s a girl back home he can’t wait to see…
Lean In But Don’t Surrender Entirely
The upside to having five weeks to travel is that you can take things at a more leisurely pace. This works especially well in countries where the pace of life is part of the appeal. I aim for one “enriching” activity daily. The Kids and I have developed a rhythm that works most of the time.
One thing I’ve learned is that “enrichment” comes in many forms. Take the photo above, for example. Yes, the kids spent 30 minutes playing a video game found at a department store. But I made them get their own change, in Spanish. Deal Kid also found a great deal on $3 T-shirts- meaning he’s figuring out the currency. And Deal Girl ordered lunch on her own at the store snack bar. Baby steps.
Meals take a looooong time in many countries so I always carry a deck of cards. When the kids were younger I relied on Mad Libs. A few days ago I resorted to an ad hoc science experiment: each kid put a load of mentos in his mouth and took a swig of diet coke. Hilarity ensued.
Yesterday we had an hour to kill in the small town of Vicuna before our stargazing tour. I popped into the grocery store and bought two balls. That they had Peppa Pig on them was neither here nor there. We played dodgeball on the town square for an hour before giving the balls away. $4 well spent.
“It’s totally worth it” isn’t just a platitude
I don’t want to dissuade anyone from long term family travel. I just want you to go in with a clear head. And from time to time the kids surprise you with their team work and their ability to figure it out.
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