For those of us who live away from where we grew up, visiting family back “home” with your children is a wonderful thing. All of you get to experience new things, while your extended family get to see a sneak peak into your daily life. It can be crazy tiring though, because often your partner isn’t making the trip with you.
Help at hand?
Your family will want to help out though, but you’ll find yourself the go to person for everything from lunches to bath-time schedules. For those who live quite a distance from family, you have all the packing and organising to do beforehand and generally can’t rest during the trip because you may be sleeping with one eye open or catering to various needs.
On the other hand, you may have to completely relinquish all control over your little ones to someone who “knows best” and thinks you need a break. In all these scenarios, just be honest. You have the right to let people know how you wish your children to be tended to – especially when you are a new mum with your first children.
Getting to know the extended family
I love this blog post, it has some great ideas. I love the ‘family book’ idea – a book with pictures of the people you are taking your children to visit – worth a read http://www.ahaparenting.com/ask-the-doctor-1/visiting-family-at-holidays. For toddlers, it could be lots of fun to have a little photo album to look at while they are travelling. Maybe use a little masking tape below each picture and write the name of the family member.
Recently, my whole extended family got together and my children got to be part of their group of 13 cousins for the first time ever. (It made for an absolutely beautiful photo to see all the ‘kids’ aged from 6 to 34). Even though we spend a lot of time talking about Aunty’s and Uncles etc, one of the cousins wrote down all the names for my kids and who was part of who’s family. They were amazed. A partner thought it was quite cute when our youngest asked him “are you a cousin too?” They were able to check their list.
Making the journey
For me, travelling with babies was fun. I saw it as a great chance just to sit and cuddle – before they need solids its fairly simple. It can be difficult to comfort them sometimes though, that seatbelt sign can come on when you and your child dont want it. I found humming their favourite tune in their ear or busily turing pages of a favourite book is a good distraction. It is always a good idea to take any medications with you though, in case of any illness or discomfort. (Certainly have them in your suitcase – you don’t want to get to your destination sick and needing to hit the shops – ‘normal’ people don’t keep Children’s Panadol in their medicine cabinet)!
Toddlers are a different kettle of fish, as they are happy to let you and everyone else know when they aren’t happy. I try and stick to a program of food and various activities from drawing, to cards, to viewing movies.
Older than this they are happy to find an activity for themselves and will often assist if you have younger ones with you.
At all ages I would suggest letting them pick a favourite thing to carry, generally teddies travel with us on car and plane trips. Longer trips you may like to swap for something smaller or something with a toggle you can attach to a backpack. Have you seen our kimochis range)?
Once you are there
I generally arrive at my destination quite tired. Luckily we are generally picked up from the airport. Enthusiastic Aunty’s normally have various snacks and suprises ready in the car. After collecting our bags we normally head for the toilets. I try and pick a ‘family’ room, something like a changing room etc is ideal. I like this as I can keep track on each of the kids and while a nappy is being changed, someone can be on the toilet or washing hands etc. If you have to go into a cubicle, I have in the past made the kids stand right in front of the door and insist that I have to be able to see their their feet. I insist they not move from there. I have also learnt that with some kids, even if they say they don’t need to go, THEY DO and if you leave the toilets you’ll have to go back (no doubt you already know if you have one of these always busy types).
Routine suits the littlies
We try and stick to routine when we’re away and make the first one an early night if we can. Normally my kids have a bit of trouble getting to bed the first night or 2. They also share rooms when we’re away, so the older they get the more exciting this is. At toddler age (our 3 kids were born within 2.5 years) one liked a night light, while another didn’t, so sharing a room was a tad problematic (hence Little Gulliver stock the swivel night light ;).
I think the main thing is to just enjoy yourself and try to keep it about your family. I remember being appalled (when my kids were barely on solids), a well meaning distant relo presented them with a Giant Freddo each! ‘Thanks’, as you quickly put it away for years and years later. Also, you may want to really catch up with your loved ones, but once the kids are on the scene it may be a little different. While you may have found you could never finish a sentence at mothers group, it will be the same when you catch up with your mum and dad. Always try and cover the important issues when you can, particularly when you get to catch up with older family members. Photos…photos…photos…
The warm and fuzzy bit
Most of all, no-one will know much effort and how hard it is for you to make the visit – so just enjoy and be pleased that you are there. It will pay off for your children, as they grow, with regular visits. They will form some beautiful relationships and have precious memories. I’ve done this for my children and if you are like me, you will enjoy this post; 16 things only people who live away from their families will understand.
Make the effort when they are young, believe me – it does get easier. Happy travels!