Embracing the art of surrender

Surrendering to these two and their sister.

Surrendering to these two and their sister.

It’s been about two weeks since Baby G was born, and everyone keeps asking me how Powerwoman and I are adjusting to life as the parents of three. The short answer is: We’re getting there. The long answer is a bit more raw: Holy shit, you guys, this transition is f-ing hard.

How else to explain this crazy phenomenon of now being responsible for THREE little humans instead of two?

First have been the logistical challenges. Another child means a third set of needs we parents need to meet. It also means that Powerwoman and I must establish a brand new rhythm and cadence to parenting; we had become really good at balancing two, now there’s another kid in that mix. (Some people call this “zone defense” instead of “man-to-man defense,” but I find that analogy sexist and downright lame.)

Then there have been the intangible challenges. The typical hormonal stuff (for both mom and dad) that comes with postpartum life. The emotional challenges of two big sisters working out their own feelings about sharing attention.

Finally there have been the work challenges. While Powerwoman is on maternity leave through April 1, I’m essentially back to a full work schedule. Or at least I should be.

(I work at night, so it’s actually been a blessing to have one parent awake to deal with Baby G in the wee hours. That said, it is hard to focus on writing when you’re sharing an 85-square-foot office with an adorable and wide-awake baby.)

I’d describe my state of mind most times as OVERWHELMED. And I’m not ashamed of saying it.

I had spent the better part of this week feeling stressed about the situation. That’s when I ran into a neighbor who doubles as a Zen master (seriously) and is expecting *his* third child next year.

This neighbor shared with me some philosophy one of his friends told him. In a nutshell, the philosophy revolves around the notion of surrendering to the situation and letting go. According to this line of reasoning, there’s no way to change the amount of logistical and emotional demands afoot in our family right now, so instead of fighting them, I simply need to give in to them, to surrender.

Trust me, it’s not easy to do this—especially not when all three kids are crying at once or an editor is harassing me to file that story that was due three days ago. But the philosophy of “surrender” truly works wonders; when I remind myself to let go, I feel less stressed and barely overwhelmed at all.

Sometimes, in very high-pressure situations, I’ll even say it out loud to myself, just as a reminder to chill.

The best thing about the philosophy of “surrender” is that it applies to just about everything in life. Parenthood. Work. Social situations. Everything.

In the world of travel, the lesson is that every family traveler could stand to surrender a little more in his or her adventures on the road. We all get worked up—about delays, cranky kids, hotel sleeping situations. Surrendering to those of these things you can’t control can help make them seem less daunting/irritating/vexing.

I’m still learning how to surrender. But embracing this perspective as I approach my new life as a father of three sure has made it easier. The friend of my friend is totally right: The more we surrender, the better off we’ll all be.

Family Travel Lessons from Life in London

The rest of the pod, running to another adventure.

The rest of the pod, running to another adventure.

By the time this post is published on Monday, our wandering pod will be somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, well on our way back to California after four months in London.

If you’ve read this blog during our visit, you know we’ve had some pretty spectacular experiences. If you haven’t read it, allow me to summarize: The last four months undoubtedly have changed our lives, and also have given us a new appreciation for a variety of aspects of traveling as a unit.

Here are some of the things we’ve learned:

Family travel isn’t always rainbows and unicorns
So many blogs like this one focus only on the positives. And there are thousands of positives to traveling with kids. That said, allow me to be the first to tell you: Sometimes, traveling with kids REALLY SUCKS. The kids get cranky. You get stressed. You fight with your spouse. The cycle starts again. We had our fair share of miserable moments during our stint overseas. My advice: Focus on the good stuff; keep perspective on the bad stuff and you’ll survive.

Discipline is hard on the road
All parents know that when kids act up, they need to be disciplined. The challenge? Disciplining them is harder when you’re away from home. How do you give a time-out without the time-out corner? How do you roll when the kid throws a temper tantrum in public? How constructive is it to deprive them of their favorite things in a new place? Answers to each of these questions will differ for each family. But the questions themselves prove there is no easy way to tackle these issues.

Sleep is relative
At home, each of our daughters has her own room. At our flat in London, the kids shared a room. This meant that at some point every night, R would cry and wake up her sister, who would come and sleep with us. We always were hesitant to send L back to her bed for fear of further disrupting R. The bottom line: All bets are off when it comes to kids’ sleep schedules on the road. It doesn’t really matter when they sleep or where they get their REM cycles. So long as they do.

‘Eating well’ is subjective
Powerwoman and I consider ourselves proponents of healthy eating. We push vegetables. We try to limit sweets. During our stint in London, where food options were limited and the kids were pickier than they are at home, we lowered our standards. Suddenly slices of raw pepper qualified as “vegetable,” and frankfurters qualified as “protein.” We rationalized these decisions by acknowledging that the moves were only temporary. Our reasoning: On the road, the No. 1 goal should be just making sure your kids eat.

Public transportation is your friend
Buses and trains did much more than shuttle our family from Point A to Point B; on days when one or both of the girls had trouble behaving, public transportation vehicles served as the ultimate distractors, quashing tantrums before they even began. L was mesmerized by the Tube, while R preferred the “double-bus.” In both cases, the girls reacted to the public vehicles as if they were rides at an amusement park. No, this won’t work for every kid. But it certainly is worth a shot.

Overplanning is for amateurs
There were days during our 4-month visit when I had lofty goals of hitting two or three different tourist destinations/attractions in an afternoon. Not surprisingly, I failed to meet my objectives every single time. The reality: Moving around a city with two children takes a lot longer than you think it will. They’re slow. They eat a lot. They like to go off-script and explore things you never suspected they’d want to explore. The best way to prepare for this dillydallying is to resist the urge to over-plan, and focus on one thing for each day.

The last lesson we learned in London pertained to how we parents judge ourselves. The gist: We need to cut ourselves some slack. Yes, there were days when our kids were the loudest kids on public transit. And, yes, there were other days when we were too tired after a week of schlepping to bring the kids to the local playground or museum. Neither case was cause for the suspension of our licenses as mom and dad. We learned that making ourselves crazy about apparent failures as parents only sapped our energy to parent the way we should. Furthermore, in the scheme of things (at least from our experiences), we weren’t failing as badly as we thought.

What practical lessons have you learned about family travel over the years?

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