As I consider spending part of spring break traveling with my grown children, I had reflections of times when I prepared for travel with them when they were young children. Traveling with young children often proved to be quite the adventure. And when the person in charge of packing the family for the trips was me, a self-diagnosed type A person with an obsessive compulsive disorder, there were certainly added stressors related to planning the details of the trip coupled with my attempts to prepare for every possible situation. The “what if’s” consumed my thoughts and directed the packing for myself and the rest of the travel party. In my opinion, my relationship with the “what if’s,” made me the better travel coordinator of the adults in the house.
The young ones needed so much gear – the stroller, the diapers, the medication, the wipes, the clothes, the toys, treats, food, and of course a book. I don’t recall receiving much adult input about the packing when the kids were babies. However, as they got older, the voices of guidance about the process of planning and packing got louder: “Are you sure we will need that?” and “Why so many changes of clothes in the carry on for such a short flight?” and “They are old enough to help with that.” It’s a good thing that thought bubbles are invisible because mine read, “Yada, yada, yada. I got this already!”
One time we were traveling with our kids and the reason for the change of clothes became apparent. The other grown up on the trip decided that it was not necessary for him to have a change of clothes in the carry on bag so I followed instructions and took his change of clothing our of the carry on bag and I packed it in the suitcase we planned to check. During a layover at an airport, the only person without a change of clothes took the baby for a diaper change. This person who does not believe in buying novelty items at high prices in airports came back to the waiting area shaking his head, modeling a t-shirt with the smiling face of a popular mouse from a theme park in Florida. If I hadn’t been laughing so hard, I probably would have said, “I told you so.” I must admit that I did enjoy the teaching moment.
At about age three, I started inviting my children to collect the things they wanted to take with them for a stay away from home. Then, we would sort through the often large collection of valuables to get to the most special possessions that would make the packing list. When they were five or six years old, I would give them the kid friendly suitcase and instruct them to pack the bag for the trip. We would discuss where we were going, the length of the stay, the weather during our stay, and the kinds of things we would be doing while were were away from home. After the kids announced that they were finished packing, I would return to their rooms to inspect the bags and make recommendations.
Once, my son proudly announced that he was all packed and ready for travel. I knew that he was done because his suitcase was zipped closed and standing near the door of his bedroom ready to be carried to the car. With an outward display of excitement and an internal nervous anticipation, I unzipped the bag. Upon inspection, I found the usual suspects – the favorite toys, the favorite shoes, the favorite shirt, and the favorite book. It became obvious that his packing list did not include things I believed important for overnight stays away from home like underwear, socks, changes of clothes for each day of the trip, a hair brush, toothpaste and a tooth brush.
I think that I sometimes forgot that every moment around young people had the opportunity to be a teaching moment. My children were learning about packing and preparing for travel by living through each travel experience with me, their type A mama. My kids are now skilled travelers who can roll items and then pack lightly and efficiently. With all of the teaching and excellent instruction given to my kids, my bag is likely to be the most difficult to zip and the heaviest. Unfortunately for me, the lessons I lived out in front of them also conditioned them to expect that they could travel lighter when they travel with me because I would have the “what if’s” for me and for them covered.