The first time we took my oldest on a trip, it was a complete failure. I was very pregnant with our second and we were hoping for a quick and easy weekend away before we became a family of four. Except my husband’s head cold turned into a sinus infection and my daughter barely slept because the change in environment was stressing her out. We had booked two nights in our hotel but after a little sightseeing we headed home and spent the second night in our beds, swearing we would never travel with kids again.
Since then, we have pretty much kept our promise. We have added two more kids to our family and the only traveling we’ve done has been weekend trips with grandparents, two aunts and an uncle to help us keep a handle on our kids. Now, when I think about trying something new, staying in a hotel room again, taking a road trip or flying as a family, I think back to our first family trip and it basically scares me out of making any plans.
For example, this summer, we really want to take a good, long vacation. We want to take our kids the beach and we want to spend at least a week away. It sounds dreamy in theory but every time I start to make plans I feel anxious and can’t commit. I run through every possible worst case scenario and by the time I talk myself into booking a rental, someone else was snatched it up.
So, I sit at my computer, staring at this vacation rental that I missed out on because I am too afraid of failing at a family vacation and I all I can think about is all of the ways my fear of taking risks is keeps me from being a fun mom.
If we get invited to a playdate, I’m immediately weighing the likelihood I can pull it off without a tantrum or a hysterical newborn or yelling at my kids on the way out the door. I toss around the idea of going out to eat as a family more often, but end up ordering take-out because I am certain something will go wrong and the entire restaurant will end up thinking we’re the worst parents in the world. Even when we do make plans, I spend the days leading up to it looking for a reason to backout. Ya know, a reason besides feeling like everything might fall apart the second we leave the house.
I really think I’m afraid of taking risks and it worries me that I am holding my kids back from experiencing new things. Here’s the thing, I think part of the problem is that I know things are going to go wrong. You can’t spend over ten hours in the car with three kids five and under and not experience multiple tantrums. You can’t completely uproot your kids from their routine and expect their sleep schedules to stay the same.
I imagine my kids growing up, complaining to their college roommates that they’ve never been to the Grand Canyon or seen the ocean and it really bums me out. I don’t want to be that mom, but I’m not sure how to get past my inexplicable need to keep everyone happy and to avoid anything going wrong. Even worse, I’m worried I will pass on my fear of taking risks to my kids, that they’ll grow up to always choose the safest option instead of stepping outside of their comfort zone.
I guess the real question is whether or not I’m willing to fail, to take some risks to teach my kids that it’s OK that we can’t control our environment. Am I willing to try hard things so that my kids will learn flexibility and adaptability, or will I let my own hang ups get in their way?
I’m working on it, I really am. I am taking some daily steps to learn to manage my anxiety, like meditation and journalling. And for now, I’m focusing on booking the vacation rental and if everything falls apart the second we hit the road, at least a sandy beach and a margarita will be waiting for me at our destination.