They hate bugs

All week, people have asked me why we’re not camping during our upcoming trip to Yosemite National Park (or at least staying at the klatch of tent cabins formerly known as Curry Village). The answer is simple: My girls hate bugs.

I mean, they REALLY hate bugs. And their antipathy takes very different forms.

For R, it’s all terror, all the time. We’ve had a spate of mosquitoes here in Northern California, and whenever she sees one she runs in the other direction shrieking like a banshee. L, on the other hand, is curious and disgusted at the same time. She’ll touch caterpillars and moths and spiders, but as soon as the critters take an interest in HER, she freaks, too, usually throwing or striking the bug before running away.

Over the course of day-to-day life here in a house, these behaviors range from mildly irritating to oddly humorous. Can you imagine how crazy the entomophobia would be in a tent?

I can close my eyes and picture it. DADDY A GNAT! Dad! There is a bee flying around. Kill it! Kill it or I’m sleeping in the car. OHMYGOD DAD THAT MOSQUITO IS GOING TO KILL ME AND GIVE ME HEART CANCER.

(Yes, R is obsessed with/worried about “heart cancer.”)

Needless to say, I’d be crazy to force myself to deal with this paranoia in a confined space. I’d also have to be pretty inconsiderate; my campground or tent village neighbors would hate us in minutes.

For these reasons, we’ve reserved a two-bedroom family cabin at Evergreen Lodge outside the park in Groveland. We booked it on Expedia, of course. And we’re excited for four days and three nights of bug-free living so we can get good sleep and embrace all the park has to offer. (We can do the tent-and-bugs thing in the backyard or local park when we get home.)

What to do when the kids won’t fly

Our L would rather just pick poppies all day.

Our L would rather just pick poppies all day.

We pride ourselves in this house on being a family that can go anywhere at any time. We’ve traveled as a unit to multiple continents and multiple countries. We’re old pros at just about every type of transportation. Heck, our kids have more stamps in their passports than about 90 percent of the population of the United States.

Imagine, then, our surprise this week, when L declared that she did not want to fly on airplanes anymore.

(Her exact words were: “I’m done with planes.”)

The Big Girl’s last flight was more than four months ago—our return trip to London. Neither Powerwoman nor I is entirely sure what prompted the kid to put her foot down like in this fashion. Some of the theories we’ve discussed:

  • She reflected on the duration of the flight home from London and decided it was too long.
  • She really hated running out of lollipop on the descent and does NOT want her ears to hurt like that again.
  • She just wants to stay closer to home for a while.

Whatever the reason, her declaration definitely has complicated matters. On one hand, we want to take her wishes seriously and at least make it seem like we’re listening to her. On the other hand, travel is what we do in this family, and a handful of our upcoming trips inevitably are going to involve airplanes of some kind.

(For instance, we’ve got upcoming vacations to Hawaii and Walt Disney World, in Florida. You can’t really get to either of those places from California without flying.)

Ultimately, I think we’ll compromise—slow down a bit on the air travel (we’ve already booked more road trips for the summer, including one that involves an RV) but also make sure L understands that some of our family vacations necessitate a plane.

Privately, Powerwoman and I also will hope L’s current stance on airplane travel is nothing that a few Dum-Dums can’t cure.

How do you respond when your kids say they don’t want to travel a certain way?

Conquering fear of potties on the road

For a while, this was the only potty L would use.

For a while, this was the only potty L would use.

We certainly have had our fair share of bathroom dramas away from home. Like the time L realized she was terrified of the “magic eye” automatic toilet flushers. Or the trip that R decided hand dryers are the corporeal manifestation of Lucifer. Or, most recently, the day that L followed a prodigious session on the toilet with a, “Look at my turd!” that echoed in the bathroom for what seemed like an eternity.

The list could go on for pages. And, when you’re traveling with little ones, it usually does. So, when a friend and loyal reader texted me last week asking for advice about how to deal with her daughter’s aversion to public toilets on the road, I sympathized completely.

Sadly, I didn’t have much to offer.

I mean, sure, there are all sorts of web sites (here and here, for instance) with formal advice from doctors—people who say things like “work on decreasing fears” and “model appropriate coping.”

My friend didn’t want any of that gobbledy-gook. She just wanted practical tips. She wanted to know what she could do to get her kid to make a @#!&@ pee without (wasting 30 minutes and) enduring a total meltdown.

I started by directing her to stuff I’ve written about the subject before (here and here). Then I told her the situation sucks but it gets better over time. I held back on my third piece of advice, largely because I didn’t want to discourage her. Instead (and now that this reader is back home), I’ll share it here: Pray for an accident.

Allow me to reiterate: I think an accident is the best way for a kid to overcome fear of using toilets in public. Because suffering the consequences of refusal is a powerful tool.

This opinion was forged out of first-hand experience with L, who grappled with this mortifying lesson during our first solo trip together (to Los Angeles).

I knew she had to go from the moment we arrived at LAX, but she simply refused to go. Then, on the plane, the flight attendant sensed what was up and offered to help; my kid refused again. Finally, at about 30,000 feet, somewhere between the animal crackers and the juice box, she couldn’t hold it any longer. I discovered the accident when I spotted a tiny puddle on her seat cushion. And I sprang into action.

Because I was worried about how she’d do with the whole potty-in-public thing, I was prepared, and had stashed a change of clothes in a Ziploc in the overhead bin, ready to go. As soon as I noticed pee on the seat, I grabbed the clothes, picked up L, and whisked her into the forward lavatory.

Yes, she was upset. No, she didn’t sit on that potty without a fight. But eventually, she did it. Somehow we even managed salvage the pee-soaked skirt for a trip to the dry-cleaner at home.

The rest, as they say, is history; since that day, despite minimal hemming and hawing every now and again, L hasn’t suffered the public toilets too much. She doesn’t necessarily like public potties, but she dislikes the embarrassment (and discomfort) of a public accident more. In the name of poetry, L even has started harassing her sister—who is still in diapers—about how it’s time for *her* to get with the potty program.

The lessons: Be prepared. Be patient. And weather an accident. No, this methodology is not ideal. But from personal experience, the only way to go from that situation is up.

How have your children overcome their issues of using the potty in public when traveling?

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