This is not the first time we’ve travelled with small children. In fact, counting them up, I realize that it’s our 8th transatlantic trip with one or more children under the age of 3 in the past three years. And yet, every trip is different. Kids seem to react differently according to their personalities, the circumstances surrounding the travel, and their age at the time, which should be obvious but seems to catch me unaware every time.
Stephen, at almost three, has been easier to deal with this trip than any other since he was about 8 weeks old. He slept for 6 hours of our 12-hour flight, and on the second and third legs of the trip he was content to sit and watch movies quietly on the DVD player or iPod. He survived the 8-hour time change and the lack of sleep during the trip with grace and style, and only had one significant meltdown during the entire 27 hour odyssey. This is the first time that Stephen has seemed to really enjoy the new experiences so much, he’s soaking up the attention from his grandparents and delights in discovering new places to play and explore. If he weren’t so busy, and if my arms weren’t nearly always full of a squirming, fussy Nathaniel, I would constantly be pulling Stephen into my lap to kiss him and tell him how happy and sad it makes me to see him growing up and maturing like this. I still tell him, but I’m not sure he can hear me over Nathaniel. 😉 I’m humbled by his patience and his sweet, accommodating spirit. It gives me hope that travelling with them will indeed get easier as they get older.
Nathaniel, at almost 9 months, has had a harder time adjusting. I’m not sure if it’s the jet lag, the temporary sleep deprivation that inevitably comes with such a long trip, the change in scenery and new people, his personality, his age, or a combination of those factors, but the two days since we arrived Stateside have been challenging. During the journey here, he actually did fairly well — he also slept for about half of the long flight, and he slept for at least part of the two flights after that. Since we’ve been stationary, however, he’s been a handful. For me, specifically, since he won’t allow anyone else to hold him without screaming himself hoarse. He’s up every two hours all night long, fighting naps during the day, and nursing as much as a newborn.
It’s hard. This is one of the consequences of living our lives halfway across the world, and one that I’m only really starting to realize. My family back here, my parents and Danny’s parents and our siblings and best friends, for the most part don’t get to see our kids at their best. Our parents have been able to come and visit us where we live, but a lot of our loved ones have only seen the boys when they’ve been uprooted from their home and subjected to a horrifically long trip and a 7- or 8-hour time change. I’m sure everyone still loves seeing them, but the truth is that none of us are at our best under those circumstances and our kids are no exception. Stephen is whinier and more emotional, and Nathaniel is clingy and fractious.
I’m trying very had to maintain perspective, which is not easy for me to do. I need to remind myself several times a day that they didn’t ask to live so far away, that they don’t understand jet lag or why none of their toys or familiar things are here, or who all these people are who are touching them and talking to them. I tell myself that the people who love us will understand that we’re all tired and not in our element, and that I don’t need to apologize a hundred times for Nathaniel’s screaming or Stephen’s sobbing meltdown or my exhaustion. Our life overseas has numerous benefits, but quality, low-stress, consistent time with loved ones back home is just not one of them.