Embracing a new travel plan

The Plan.

I’ve made no secret over the years about the fact that our biggest girl, L, struggles with anxiety issues from time to time.

Some weeks, this has no bearing whatsoever on our lives as a family of five. Other weeks, it means our individual and collective lives are characterized by aggressive behavior, wild mood swings, lousy attitude, and more.

As you can imagine, enduring these tough times on the road can be a real struggle for everyone involved. This is why we recently sat down with our (regular) family behavioral therapist to come up with a strategy for navigating any potential behavioral hiccups during our upcoming family trip to Disneyland this weekend.

The therapist worked with us to devise what she calls a “Travel Plan” for the trip. Basically, this document—and it is a physical, typed-out document—serves as a playbook that establishes ground rules and sets expectations for everyone.

The plan lists everything from specific meal times and bed times to time-out consequences for temper tantrums or what to do if someone falls ill (answer: GO BACK TO HOTEL WITH A PARENT).

Our document even has space to list out a specific itinerary for the two full days we’ll be in the park.

As our therapist explained it, Powerwoman and I are supposed to work together to fill out this itinerary on the nights before our park days, then spend five or 10 minutes on the mornings of our park days reviewing the plan with the girls. The goal: To eliminate surprises and potentially challenging transitions for our Big Girl.

If you’re reading this and you think, “That sounds completely NOT spontaneous,” you’re right. And that’s exactly the point.

You see when you travel with kids who experience anxiety, you want to eliminate as much of the unknown as you possibly can. Naturally, when you’re traveling, it’s impossible to manage EVERYTHING. But we *can* manage what we can manage. So we try.

Will it work? Will the plan make a difference? Only time will tell. It’s a good sign that everybody—including L—is excited to use it. This might just be the first trip of the rest of our lives. Wish us luck.

Lessons from Maine: Don’t be an asshole family traveler

Good for you, Marcy's.

Good for you, Marcy’s.

By now you probably have read about the diner owner in Portland, Maine, who screamed at a mom and dad for not quieting their crying toddler while the family dined in her restaurant this past weekend. You might have read some high-level etiquette theory about who was right, who was wrong, and what might prompt someone to go berserk under these circumstances. Maybe you even read the mother’s response.

My take: Though the restaurant owner seems like a bit of a loose cannon, the parents in question also behaved badly, and as parents, we really shouldn’t be assholes when we are dining with our kids away from home.

You read that right, folks. I’m saying I support the rabid restaurateur.

Could the restaurant owner have been a bit less crass in her tirade? Of course. Am I cool with the fact that the restaurant owner directed some of her vituperation at the 21-month-old herself? Not at all. Generally speaking, however, I think the diner gal was totally right for going off on these negligent parents, and think the vacationing parents were totally in the wrong.

I mean, the facts almost speak for themselves. The child screamed incessantly FOR 40 MINUTES and the parents didn’t even try to take the kid outside. The owner gave the family to-go boxes and asked them to take off. It was at that point, with the kid still crying, the owner went Andrew Dice Clay.

(UPDATE: Some reports suggest the child cried for only FOUR minutes. To me, the duration of the episode is irrelevant; after about 30 seconds of crying the parents should have had the kid outside.)

What’s more, the mom said she didn’t want to take her child outside because it was raining.

Again, I don’t condone cursing at kids. But I certainly understand the restaurateur’s frustration. Reports indicate there were more than 70 other diners in the restaurant at that time. Crying babies are loud. Other patrons were getting annoyed. Somebody had to do something.

So what if it was raining. Didn’t the family have a rental car? If so, that would have been a great enclosed and confined space in which the child could have cried it out. If not, surely there were awnings or vestibules of nearby businesses that would have proved worthy shelters to shield the shrieking child from the rain.

In short, I believe, the parents completely failed in their responsibilities as traveling parents who had taken a baby out to eat.

These duties aren’t complicated. They involve three basic rules: 1) Pay attention to your kid, 2) Try to keep your kid happy, and 3) Remove your kid from the situation if the kid can’t deal. According to eyewitness reports, these parents failed in each and every one of these cases.

When dining out with kids—whether you’re vacationing or not—it’s up to us traveling parents to make good choices and take responsibility for our children’s behavior, no matter what the circumstances. In this case, on that fateful Saturday in Maine, IMHO these particular parents acted like assholes and got what they deserved. Let the story be a lesson to all of us. Don’t be like these parents on your travels. Ever.

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