We leave today for our annual Christmas travel adventure. For about 9 days we are on the road with time spent at both grandparent’s houses. This is a great opportunity to get quality time and build memories with our family. But it is also a long time away from home out of our normal routine.
There are different foods and conversations, more sweets, and lots of ups and downs of excitement with presents and holiday activities. It is wonderful but it can also be overwhelming and exhausting. So, L and I have been thinking of how we could provide calm, rest, a sense of grounding even in the travel season, especially for Z.
Here is what we will try:
Travel days are not rushed. Feeling the need to hurry from A to B doesn’t make the it go faster. If L or I are on edge and irritated at traffic, interruptions etc. then it makes the time in the car more difficult. Instead, we are finding ways to make the car time enjoyable-and at the pace that works for our family. We play music, Z gets a chance to play with toys, we take breaks for not only bathroom but to eat a warm meal out of the car without rushing. L and I also try to get time to ourselves, to read, to rest. If Z sleeps, we take time for the two of us to talk. Car time is family time to prepare or regroup for the next round of holiday adventures.
Rest time is important. We will give Z a chance to wake up to his “normal” pattern if he wants it. That usually looks like applesauce pouches, cuddles, and maybe a little screen time. We want to give him a chance to start slow. This gives us an opportunity to take in the day as well. The same is true for nap time. L or I will nap with Z or at least take that time to rest or read. Z sleeps better traveling knowing one of us is nearby and we get a chance to personally regroup as well.
Rushing bedtime so we can join the adults and their conversations has only backfired on us. Z needs the reassurance that we are there or he can get distracted. Even while traveling, having a set bedtime for Z, and therefore down time for us, is very helpful.
We will take breaks if needed. All the excitement around the holidays and the travel can be intense. If we see that Z is frazzled, overwhelmed, hyper with excitement, or just exhausted by his own emotional ups and downs we will take a break. That might be reading him a Christmas book and cuddling up somewhere quiet. It could be a short car ride into town. Or could be taking him outside to go see the lake or throw pine cones in the creek. Fresh air always helps.
We are finishing our family Advent study. This month we have done an advent study using our advent wreath candles and a children’s book that explains the hope, peace, joy, and love of the season while waiting for Christmas (or as we tell Z Jesus’ birthday). All this month of waiting is leading up to that white candle in the middle. Z is excited about the “Jesus Candle” and lighting it on Christmas day. So, we will be taking a few minutes as a family, to celebrate Jesus’ birthday and complete our study.
Santa has a place in our Christmas too. Every family handles this differently, we want the focus to be on celebrating advent as well as time with family. So, Santa will bring one toy to each of the grandparent’s houses and will fill stockings at the house we stay at for Christmas. That is all. We want Santa to be an extension of the generosity, of the birthday celebration, of the giving spirit; but not the point of Christmas. We want our son to know the real reason we are celebrating. The gifts we are giving to our family and the gifts we are receiving are from each other as a reminder of the forever gifts we all have been given this time of year.
How do you spend the holidays? What tips or tricks do you use for travel time in the holiday season?