Friday, June 5, 2015

Pacing for Month-long Travel and Kid Independence

This week I've started to feel really batty about the temporary living arrangements that come with travel. I REALLY miss the ease of taking care of the kids in my own home.

The last time we visited Germany, we were a family of four (not five). We stayed for two weeks. Both Fritz and I felt it was not long enough. This time, we will be traveling (mostly in Germany) for 4 weeks. Here is the breakdown of our schedule:

3 days in Hannover (Germany)
7 days in Juist (Germany)
2 days with Oma (Germany)
3 days with friends in Aalen (Germany)
10 days with Oma (Germany)
2 days in countryside (Iceland)
2 days in Reykjavík (Iceland)

Fritz has the feeling it is the perfect length and that we paced ourselves just right. We are currently on day 7 of the 10 days with Oma. I feel like it's been a little too much time here.

The difference might be attributable to the fact that Fritz has family responsibilities to take care of while we are here with Oma. Most of those don't involve the kids and I, leaving us at loose ends. The kids are done with being in the car taking day trips. They've thoroughly traumatized Oma's fish in the pond in the yard. They're done spying on the downstairs tenant. They're craving the independence of home, but the playground is too far away to walk to alone. Noah whispers to me at night that he misses his friends. And they haven't found any neighborhood friends. They've unfortunately damaged and destroyed several adult things in Oma's house. And they're super bored. Well, Trixie is less bored. Both Noah and Mattias are quite bored. They're being fed a constant diet of sugar, of which I don't approve one bit but I have to decide between constantly fighting the host and just trying to relax and be "on vacation;" so I guess I'm conceding defeat, because who wants to spend their vacation fighting the host? Ice cream for breakfast? Sure! Why not?

I'm going to draw two conclusions:
1) One week with Oma is enough for the kids.
2) Maybe next time, Fritz should come early and spend some time here, doing whatever it is that needs to be done, while the rest of us arrive later. In the last few years, it's been very difficult for me to be alone for multiple days with the kids, so this wasn't an option. But as they get older, it's getting easier. So maybe more frequent solo trips to Germany for Fritz are in order.

Fritz doesn't want to draw any conclusions, because, he says, each time we come the kids are different ages and their needs have changed, so who knows? There's some wisdom to this perspective. Right now, Noah (8) is interested in going on tours, but Mattias (5) whines a lot about the walking and paying attention and riding in the car to get to places. Trixie (2) is happy to explore the house in her toddler-curious way, but still needs an afternoon nap (preferably not in the car seat/stroller); the boys need to run and play in large areas throughout the day.

I think we can still look at where Noah is now and have some ideas about what might work better when Mattias and Trixie are older. Primary in my mind is the question of their growing independence. To what extent does taking elementary school age children away from their friends take away their independence as well? It's really clear to me that Trixie needs mostly just her family and as long as they are by her side, she is content. But it's different for Noah. He's spent more time mourning the last days of school (that he missed) and his classmates. He's not really old enough to go off exploring on his own - I'm not ready to put him a plane and fly him across the country, or let him take a train to a nearby town – and I don't think he's ready for that kind of independence, either. But he is ready to bike around the block with his friends. He's ready to walk to the neighbor and see if the neighbor can play. He might even be ready to go over to the playground and meet someone there. That's the kind of independence he needs. It's also the kind of independence that we're missing on this trip. And it feels really apparent the longer we sit still in one place.


Pregnantly Plump said...

I'm sorry they're bored. Traveling is hard on everyone. I wish I had some advice, but I don't. I hope that you get into some sort of groove for the final three days, and that Iceland's fun!

Ann Wyse said...

I think the boredom is probably fine for them. They'll survive and be stronger for it. But I'm always in a state of evaluating, trying to think about what could be done better (for my own sake as much as anyone else's).

I also have interest in life's story from both sides, not just the pretty stuff. Maybe it's just my way of balancing the constant onslaught of marketed/retouched versions of life.

Katie said...

For me personally, it's much harder to deal with my kids while at the home of/in the company of my mother in law. Taking them to my mom's house for an extended stay is totally different. So maybe that has a little something to do with the drawn out feeling...?! ;)

I've been logged out of Blogger for weeks and weeks so I have not been commenting, but I'm always reading. I've thoroughly enjoyed your travel posts, especially the funky beach/beach chairs post. Very cool!

Coffee/kid date when you return? x

Anonymous said...

I've been in a similar situation before. And at some point I was so fed up with everything that I thought next time we come to Germany, we'd simply rent a big house and those wanting to see us can come and visit so that the kids could just do their thing and I would have to worry less about the feelings of mothers and mothers-in-law about their houses and if they would feed icecream (not for breakfast, but to my nine-month old with the same spoon). We never ended up doing it, we just cut back on the time we stayed in Germany.
And yes, at some point the kids want other kids, and at some later point they want their friends. I know school break is over, but did you end up looking into some Ferienangebote from the local community? I remember we joined the Krabbelgruppe during one summer...
Sorry that I could not give you a better advice - there probably is no perfect solution. Try to remember the nice moments you had in Germany - and please come again!