You know what I love about long distance with children?
1. Their severely curtailed sleep means there are literally dozens more hours to spend with them throughout the week.
2. And their misfiring, sleep-deprived brains say very silly and adorable things. When they’re not screaming or whining or sobbing about something.
3. The newness of being in an unfamiliar place means their naturally scientific brains will see and absorb everything, from impressive technical facts about mollusks and brown pelicans to the precise copy from a barely overheard erectile-dysfunction ad playing on a television two rooms away.
4. Of course, vacation can mean wonderful time with extended family. Being surrounded by loving adults can make anything better and can help you see clearly. In fact, it can help you see how even twice the number of adults does not make parenting small children any easier. Seriously, evidence is starting to suggest that it would take twenty child care experts (or kindergarten) to get me a semi-regular shower. Or a run. The tally of shower-free-days to reasonably-scented-days on vacation is even worse than at home. (I did get to go bathing suit shopping, though. That experience is actually much easier thousands of miles from home. I highly recommend you shop for your most loathed piece of clothing when you’re far, far, far from mirrors you recognize.)
5. Children on vacation have delightful appetites and a charmingly predictable neophobia that means all they’ll eat is crackers. Crackers are good, quick energy for explosive volume and wild beach play. Yay for cracker-exclusive dining. Nothing but good can come from a week of an all-cracker diet, I’ve heard experts say.
6. Frantic children, geographically displaced by well-meaning adults, allowed to write their own sleep schedule, and fed nothing but crackers run around like wild monkeys, desperate for outside activities. This means a wonderful opportunity to teach frequent, thorough sunscreen application. Because vacationing children don’t have time to wait for adults to wash and sunscreen their own faces, extended vacations are a delightful reminder why paraben-free mineral sunscreen is a terrible idea for middle-aged skin. Lots of sunshine with children is a quick and easy path to enormous, painful breakouts. Thanks for the reminder, Spring Break!
7. At the end of the journey, flight attendants are highly trained and extensively experienced in handling exhausted, carbo-loaded children. They offer, with subtle glances and measured words, a lifetime worth of child-rearing assistance without even being asked. Hurray for unhelpful unsolicited advice! It makes us at once shamed and hopeless about our parenting.
But every parent knows reentry is the toughest part of vacation. No matter how long you’re gone, the first two days back are characterized by turbulence. Nobody’s well rested, well fed, or well adjusted. One part wanting to go back, one part relieved to be home, one part sick of being together, and one part daunted by jumping back on the treadmill you had forgotten is set permanently at 12 mph.
This means the very best part of a long vacation with a transcontinental flight is that those amongst you who still use a car seat will sleep on the plane. Nobody else will, including those who’ve graduated to a booster. So Day One of reentry will be characterized by exhausted, snippy people calmed by a somewhat reasonable three-year-old. Let me say that again (so I’m the only site on the Interwebs that will include the statistically significant phrase “somewhat reasonable three-year-old”): Somewhat. Reasonable. Three-year-old. So relatively rested, in fact, that when his older brother falls and cuts a gash across his face in the middle of Day One at home, the three-year-old will fetch the ice pack while you’re trying to decide whether to see the doctor (yes) for stitches (no, thankfully).
See? Travel with the whole family. Think big. The upsides are huge. Learning and perspective and crackers.