I have always been in awe of families that embrace and willingly travel with young kids. It just seems so hard to me…and not much like a vacation. Airports, security lines, delays, restless nights. And unless extended family is with you while on vacation, it seems like you are on all the time…and none of what you normally have with you to address challenges is with you.
But, of course, I'm a self-admitted homebody. I like to be home. I like our home. I love our home.
We do travel to see our extended family, but we have held off doing travel to destination locations with our kids until they get older. This has been our status quo until I am confident vacation is going to feel like, well vacation! Instead of kids ruling the world and me stressed and tired the entire vacation. I also want to feel like we can handle what could come our way in what is inherent in any kind of airline travel.
I have not felt any kind of confidence that we - really me - could handle all of this. Until now.
Each summer, we head south to visit my in-laws for about a week. But, the start of our travel plans foreshadowed what was to come.
My husband's work calendar shifted at the last moment and he was not able to leave with us at the very start of our vacation. This meant I was on my own with three kids 8 and under for a 2 hour flight (not too bad…) and a 2 hour drive. Ugh.
After a wonderful vacation, our trip home was a disaster. A disaster in the sense that we got to the airport early because we couldn't get our seat assignments unless we were in person. Our plane was then delayed. Then, delayed again. And, then we had no pilots.
Six hours later, we made the call to just get a hotel rather than spend the night at the airport with our three kids. Finally, on the way home, the direct flight was full so we had two flights to get to our home.
To recap, that's a two hour drive to the airport, 6 hours in the airport, an impromptu stay at a hotel, and two flights home. Not to mention, I had my first experience by myself with all three kids while traveling.
While this sounds overwhelming and tiring (and parts of it certainly were), it ended up being an unexpected bonding experience between brothers, partners, and a family.
My kids were incredible. They were in good spirits. They were kind. They were helpful. There wasn't any whining. They didn't fight. I've got to say that part again. They didn't fight.
They were loving, respectful, and truly helpful. They solved their own problems. They communicated with each other. They held each others' hands and helped each other throughout the entire traveling experience (both there and back).
My husband, and I were a team. And, we told each other just that. We supported each other and worked each challenge as it came.
If I had any concerns about being able to go on vacation with this crew, my fears are put aside.
As I reflect on why this all happened, there were a couple of things that as parents we focused on - kind of unintentionally, actually. Why unintentionally? We truly love and respect each other. My husband and I view ourselves as partners…as a team...in everything we do. I
So, when the going gets tough, we focus on the positive. We problem solve. We work together. Because we do it everyday and we practice it everyday, when the inevitable hard days come we go into a kind of "kindness" autopilot.
We have built a kindness habit that has truly become second nature. These values are so ingrained in how we talk to each other and treat each other, we don’t have to think about it anymore. We automatically act this way.
I truly believe our approach for how we treat each other - our focus on teamwork - acts as a role model to our kids for how to act and how to treat each other. When they see us hug and support one another when we get bad news, they do the same.
This led my two older kids to hold each other's hands and then seek out my youngest's hand as well when we were informed of yet another delay. When we made the decision to go to the hotel, they helped each other fill up their water bottles as we waited for our bags. When my middle kiddo's leg started to hurt as we walked up and down the airport trying to find our bags then a ride to the hotel, my oldest carried his backpack for him. As we got into the Uber, what normally dissolves into fighting was a team approach to getting everyone buckled in.
I mean. Wow. Just wow.
Anyway, enough rambling. Here are the 5 ways to ensure that kindness becomes a habit in your family, so that when the going gets tough everyone gets kind.
State kindness as a family value. When kindness is stated as a family value, it becomes the cornerstone for so many conversations - how siblings treat each other, how to help your kids figure when to say what they are thinking, and respect for other people.
Role model kindness - to your kids, to each other, and to other people. Our kids do what we do. If we treat them with kindness and respect, they will do that to others. If they see partners treat each other with kindness and respect, they will treat their partners, friends, and siblings that way. If we are kind to others, they will know how to do it on their own.
Practice kindness every single day - Intentionality is the name of the game. Go out of your way to practice kindness every day and make sure your kids see you do it. Kindness doesn't have to be big and complicated. It can be easy - like holding open doors for people or smiling at someone. Or, it can be bigger - like taking a treat to a neighbor or the mailman. Whatever it is, intentionally incorporate it into your day.
Breathe kindness into your kids! Tell them they are kind. Don't just be kind, make sure you are telling your kids they are kind. They believe what you tell them about themselves. If you tell them they are bad, they believe they are bad kids. If you tell them they are kind they will believe this. When you see acts of kindness, help them understand that what they are doing is kind! And, that you want to see more of it.
Help your kids understand why kindness is important and the ripple effects it has on other. For some kids, like my son, it's not enough to be told to be kind. He needs to understand why. Help them understand the ripple effects of kindness and the effect being kind to others can have on both their and other's happiness.
I'm blown away by the love, support, and kindness my family has for each other. And, I feel blessed beyond any measure to have a partner who shows the same for me. I am more a believer than ever before that practicing kindness, respect, and empathy every single day means when life serves us the inevitable challenges, we will be ready.
Maybe, just maybe, I'll start looking into our first destination vacation!