How have you been? It’s been a little while since we last checked in. For those who don’t know, my family has been on the road for a month. We decided to throw it all to the wind, pile into a car, and explore the country this year. All while the kids study remotely and we work remotely.
Crazy? Hell yeah. But what else were we going to do during this nutty time if not live out the dreams we’ve always had?
But today I don’t want to talk about the places we’ve been, how we’re navigating COVID, or the mental preparation I’ve needed to make in order to bridge the political divide with people we meet along the way. (If you’d like to hear more about that stuff sign up for my travel blog here.)
Today I want to talk about TANTRUMS.
Because although we are seeing spectacular views, hiking through mind blowing canyons and driving through lyrical prairies, there are no less tantrums than there were before. And you know what? They look the same. Even with the heavenly backdrop.
In fact, they’re about the same two things they were when they were babies – FOOD and SLEEP.
I remember when I was a girl and we would travel with my family. My mother was the type who could go all day eating only an ice cream cone, and could always do one more thing – one more hike, one more swim, one more viewpoint. I have a few picturesque memories of the view on our cross country trip, but I especially remember long car rides, swimming in hotel pools, and whining.
When I grew up I realized what I had been complaining about – HUNGER! Not only that, I realized that my father also had mini tantrums on these trips, and they were for the same reason. He and I share low blood pressure. If we don’t eat we get cranky and weak. My mother, on the other hand, can go on empty no problem.
Cut to motherhood and me entering with this super-knowledge. I vowed never to reach that point. I stock the car! Millions of snacks! Sandwiches! Variety! We make three meals! and yet somehow I fall into the same trap. In fact, my kids get WAY more whiny and lethargic than I remember being.
Yes, I am asking a lot of them on this trip. We are doing a ton of moving around, walking, seeing, and sleeping in strange beds. But in the end it always comes down to these two basic bodily needs.
Here’s the scenario – it’s day two of Yellowstone. We are excited to see, hike, explore. And the whining is incessant – “I don’t WANT to go on a hike!” “I want to be in the hotel!” “I don’t want to be on this trip!” “Why are we doing this!”
We take a short walk hoping the fresh air will help. The eldest waits in the car. The other two drag along. We get back in the car and the whining continues. I offer snacks, sandwiches, games, all refused. My husband starts to get upset and barks at them. I get anxious and try to quell the tension. It is our usual family meltdown cycle.
And then I have the realization – They need a nap! Much like an infant, they need to reset. Anything we try to do before that happens won’t go well.
As a kid, back when safety regulations were limited to ‘don’t tie your kid to the roof,’ I often climbed into the back of the station wagon and slept for most of the ride. The tired whiny problem didn’t exist as much for my parents.
So I brought down the axe with my kids. I told them they had to sleep for 30 minutes. And then I bribed them because we do what we gotta do. I told them If they did they would get extra screen time at the hotel.
We turned on classical music and demanded silence. Two out of three slept. WIN!
We arrived at a trail and all came, no complaints. The two hours went by with singing, joking, photographing, and climbing.
Food and sleep. Just like infants.
Here’s the takeaway. They need those two things and they need US to keep track of them and administer them, even as they grow.
If you have the child who goes to nap voluntarily when they’re tired, congratulations. You’ve got one in a million. The rest of us need to make it happen if we want them to be resourceful, flexible, and (please god) pleasant.
HOW to get them to sleep or eat is another story. But I bet you’ve got your last resort failsafe methods. And I bet you use them when it hits you that nothing else will work until you take care of –
Parents, we got this. And we definitely have the more important stuff – LOVE.
So what do you think? Are those the two primary reasons your kids have meltdowns and tantrums or am I missing something crucial? COMMENT below.
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