‘Are we there yet?’ How we survived a ten hour road trip with two small children.

Have you ever travelled with small children? I am sure you have your share of travel horror stories. My family (husband, toddler and a 6 month old) recently took a two hour domestic flight that left us scarred. My very energetic toddler would not sit down even for take off or landing. My husband had to physically restrain him, which earned us disapproving stares from fellow passengers. At the end of that flight, my partner and I were not eager to get on another flight. So, when we decided to head to Byron bay, which is about an eight hour drive north of Sydney, we decided to turn it into an adventurous road trip and I am happy to say it was a success. How did we do it?

 Plan for rest and break periods:

Ten hours is a long drive for anyone. For that reason, we decided to break up the trip and do it over 2 days. We picked a halfway point, a city we had never been to, where we would spend the night and have breakfast the following morning. While this allowed us to have a break, it is also a great way to discover new towns you would not otherwise visit.

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Half way point. A stop over at Yarralen retreat in the town of Yarrahapinni NSW.

Do most of the drive while the kids are sleeping.

This does not have to be for the whole trip, but for the majority of it. This is something we learned when we travelled with our son across Tasmania and New Zealand. Our trip to Byron bay started on a Friday evening. After picking our boy up from day care, we drove through the city to a park where he got to play and we had a picnic. This allowed him to burn off some energy and we managed to skip the evening rush hour traffic. After the picnic, we changed him into comfortable sleeping clothes, put him back in the car seat where we let him have a few toys to play on his own. Within an hour, he was fast asleep. The infant was easy, nurse, change and back in the car as well and she was out within minutes. That left me and my husband, our favourite playlist and the open road. Five hours later, we were pulling up to our accommodation for the night. Luckily, both kids transferred to bed easily and our heads hit the pillow before the latch on the door clicked. The next morning, we woke up , had breakfast, explored the town for about an hour or so, then went back to the  car for the rest of the Journey. Travelling at night when kids are asleep is convenient because you can cover long distances without having to stop.

Activities and Toys:

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Stickers are great for entertainment. 

Since the second part of the Journey was during the day, it was entertainment and snacks to the rescue. Though I am still learning, this is what worked. I placed a bag of toys that my son had selected within reach and I let him be. I find that if I don’t initiate any interaction during this time, he can entertain himself for longer periods. I also placed a few snacks in the bag. Glad to say, this kept him quiet for over two hours! The infant was happy to gnaw and coo at a toy before falling asleep again. ‘Are we there yet mummy?’, it was time for a short break. We picked some lunch to go, and we went and sat at a park.  My son got to run up and down the park, his sister did some tummy time, got changed and nursed and the driver and co-driver got to stretch their legs. After about an hour, we were off again. ‘Almost there son’.

Something to watch:

Sitting in a car for a long time is hard for an adult, let alone a super energetic toddler. For the good behaviour and patience, we allowed my son to watch something during the last leg of our Journey. Who did we call upon? Moana of Motunui.  For a bit over an hour, Moana and her island family entertained our son, and since this is a rare treat, he gave it full attention. When the credits rolled, we had about an hour left to our journey.

Interactive Games:

This I saved for last. Experience has taught me that engaging in conversation too soon  can backfire. It can be a green light for a lot of complains and whining. I allow as much time as possible for daydreaming. When there was only about an hour left, I engaged him in a game where we had to spot different coloured vehicles. By the time we spotted about the hundredth red car, we were pulling into our final destination ready for check in!

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Though my artistic skills need work, this drawing brought much joy to this little boy.

By sheer luck, the infant was very content and low maintenance during this trip. I am aware that this will change and the next road trip may not go so smoothly. For now, I consider this a win! Next road trip is in December. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s never written in stone.

via Daily Prompt: Tentative

Being a mother is like being enrolled in a never ending online course. The lessons just keep loading up; and just when you feel like you have figured one chapter out, there is a sub chapter waiting. In this never ending classroom, I keep learning and relearning as I go. One main lesson is that any plans I make for the day should always be tentative. I am learning that while I make my own plans, my toddler and infant will have their own ideas of how the day should go.

For some of us, who are task oriented and pride ourselves in how many things we can accomplish in one day, this can come as a rude shock. It can take some adjusting to and it’s easy to get frustrated. On those days when there is a long list of things to do, those are the days infants and toddlers love to stop playing by the rules. They are the days when a two year old will refuse to get dressed, refuse to get in the stroller or the car, throw the biggest tantrums that leave you wanting to pull your hair out, and have you question everything you know about being a parent. It’s on those days that we find ourselves trying to ‘win’. We want things to go our way, and so we stay stubborn and insistent. What I have learned is that this attitude gets me no where. All that does is cause a lot of frustration all around. These are not the kind of memories I want to build with my children, and thus have decided that its easier to make realistic plans than force unrealistic ones.

So every morning I wake up, I have a plan, but its always tentative. Instead of dictating what we are doing for the day, I involve my son. I try to explain that there are things we must do, but along the way, he can pick which park we stop at,  or whether he rides his bike, scooter or just walks. There are days when this works like magic. Other days, we never make it beyond the park, and I have to be okay with this.  On days that I have things that I must accomplish, I make sure that I either have help with the kids, or they are under someone else’s care. Of course there are days when I have to insist on a strict schedule, such as when we have to catch a flight or make it to a doctors appointment but these instances are far and few in between.

Being flexible has made me a more relaxed person. I also find that these random moments with the kids, when we spend a bit more time picking stones on our walks, or balancing on a slab of concrete five times before moving on, have actually become quite pleasant. I pause and watch my son explore instead of rushing him to the next task. I listen to him talk about what he sees and its so rewarding to see his happy little face enjoy the simple things. Sure, my list is always there waiting for me but I have learned to prioritize. Not everything needs to be done right this moment, and for now, my children need me.

Hike number ten! What we have gained so far.

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Hike #10!

This past weekend marked out tenth hike since we started getting out to explore the great outdoors. When this tradition started, it  was out of necessity. Our two year old son was having a hard time adjusting to a new sibling, a move to a new apartment as well as change in structure at his daycare. The days were long, with many tantrums, lots of frustration and second guessing my abilities as a mother. I knew my son needed reassurance, I knew the tantrums were a way of him communicating his anxiety and angst; yet, I still found myself getting angry and cross with him, punishing him and then feeling guilty.

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Getting through obstacles.

The idea of getting out and hiking was something I had been thinking of for a while, but I kept coming up with reasons why we could not do it just yet. I had a newborn, we were still settling in to the new place, it was too cold for my newborn, and so on. Then one day, when I was at my wits end, I decided to get everybody out of the house and I picked our first hike. A short 3 km loop that took us through bush land and small creeks and thus, started the journey of a thousand miles.

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“follow me mummy”

Ten hikes in, and these hikes are what gets us through the week. Though the initial goal was to get my son out of the house, I have seen so many more benefits;

  1. Hiking has brought our family closer. We now enjoy sitting around the table and discussing where to go next. We look at maps, descriptions of the hikes and pick one that suits us. This has made for some lovely evenings.
  2. We have seen so much more of the state of New South Wales just from going on hikes. Sydney alone is surrounded by beautiful national parks. You only have to drive a short distance in any direction and you are bound to find yourself in a park waiting to be explored.
  3. My son is calmer, and even looks forward to getting out. Outdoors, the rules are less and the space is vast. We tailor our hikes to suite my son and any friends he may bring along. We go at his pace and cover short distances to avoid fatigue and irritability. Adult supervision is still key but out there, we let him explore, throw, collect, dig etc. Its his playground.
  4. My son is a more confident and an agile hiker. For an almost three year old, its interesting to see how much his coordination has improved. This has in turn made him a more confident explorer who is able to assess the hike and determine what he can do on his own and when he needs help.
  5. We now have conversations about preserving and respecting the nature we so much love. Being out in nature has given us an opportunity to teach lessons about empathy, responsibility and respect. We stress the importance of leaving a place better than we found it for those who may come after us. Even though he is still young, I believe that its never too early to start teaching basic morals and values.
  6. Stronger friendships. Through our Instagram account, we have had other families ask to join our hikes. We have also met new families along the way. The hikes have allowed us to form new friendships and solidify existing ones.

Hiking as a family has done wonders for us. I am there for encouraging anyone reading this to get out and wander. Whether its in your neighbourhood or you travel away from home, the benefits are immeasurable. The hardest part is making that first step out of the door, and once you do, it will be hard to look back. Happy hiking!

Another weekend another hike. Bundeena to Jibbon head.

The cool weather in Sydney will soon be gone, and hiking in the scorching sun is not really my cup of tea. That said, we are trying our best to cover as many short hikes as we can. Even though we felt a bit run down this weekend, we picked ourselves up and headed south of Sydney, and boy are we glad we did!

The royal national park is roughly 55 kms from Sydney. It has a variation of walks both in distance and difficulty. Some give you some beautiful coastal views and you can also opt for walks with lots of bushland. On the coastal walks, you will find beaches along the way where you can cool off in the summer or winter if you are brave enough.

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Jibbon beach. Where our walk almost ended before it even started. Luckily, we convinced these two to keep moving.

For our family, we choose a toddler friendly walk, Bundeena to Jibbon head. The walk starts from Bundeena wharf and takes you through Jibbon beach. Past Jibbon beach, you join the Jibbon track on to shelley beach. Important to note, past Jibbon beach, the track is on the edge of a cliff and some parts are a bit exposed. If hiking with children, please be mindful. What worked well for us was we had one adult walk ahead of the eager and energetic toddlers and they followed behind.

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The walking track, and two happy boys.

We were treated to some amazing coastal views, some bushland as well as aboriginal engravings. For this walk, we were joined by a friend and her son and so the boys had a really good time making up games along the way. It was also interesting to listen in on their conversations as they explored things they found on the hike.

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Spectacular coastal views. Exposed cliffs, keep a close eye on the kids.

 

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Aboriginal engravings.
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Exploring toddler.

When we did our first hike this winter, I had an idea that I wanted it to be a family tradition, but I was skeptical. Would we make it past the first hike?. We had a new baby, we were sleep deprived and were dealing with a toddler who was having a hard time adjusting to  the changes happening in his family. Now, seven hikes in, we all look forward to getting out and exploring. This hikes have become an outlet, a fun way of bonding and its also how we stay active. Its my hope that whether you live in Sydney or elsewhere, our blog inspires you to get out in your area and discover new places on foot. You will be glad you did.