Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Parenting: Attitude Makes Setback an Adventure

Last month we flew to Puerto Rico for my parents' 40th wedding anniversary. It was Alex's and Liam's first time in an airplane, and Amber's and Steven's first since they were babies, so naturally, they were very excited. So were we, and despite the bad traffic that resulted in our getting to Reagan National with only half an hour for check-in, we were feeling great.
...Until we realized we'd misread the tickets and were supposed to be at Dulles, over an hour away with traffic.
This is one of those situations where I usually fly off the handle, and I was tempted to yell at Rob for taking us to the wrong airport, berate myself for checking the flight number and time but not the airport, blame Expedia for not putting "DULLES" in huge glowing letters so oblivious people like me could read it... You, know, the works. This time, though, something held me back. Four somethings: my kids, who were so excited about their first airplane trip, first visit to a Tropical Island, and first chance to see all of Grandma's family. I was not going to let a silly mistake ruin it for them.
We sat down at the floor and I reassured them we'd get to Puerto Rico, while Rob got on the phone to find out our options. Ten minutes and $1800 later, he had us on a flight to San Juan via Chicago. We had a four-hour wait until our flight left Dulles and we'd be arriving late that night instead of early that afternoon, but we'd be there.
Again came the temptation to stress out, this time about the money and the loss of a day on the beach. Again, I stopped myself. Travel is adventure. Adventures mean challenges. If I wanted our kids to be able to handle those challenges (even the stupid, expensive ones) in a positive way, I had to do so myself.
"We have the money," Rob reassured me. He's far more relaxed about money than I am, which combined with my natural spendthrift instincts served us well this vacation. We'd set aside a lot of money to enjoy the summer. If we had to cut back elsewhere, it nonetheless wouldn't cripple us financially. He, I was sure, was more stressed about making such a simple error and about the prospect of keeping our four disappointed and antsy kids under control during a long wait, two long flights, and unknown accommodations at the end.
"And we have a couple of hours in DC. Where shall we go?" I asked.
We decided on the Smithsonian annex near Dulles. We stopped at a play place for lunch, which brightened up the kids, and had a terrific time at the museum, which has flying machines from the earliest gliders to the Space Shuttle Enterprise. (Liam, of course, got bored, so I took him outside, where he promptly became fascinated with the wheelchairs lined up on the other side of the window.) At every opportunity, I made the kids run: to that light post and back, around that stairwell: walk if you won't run, but get rid of some of that energy!) On the flight to Chicago, Rob was able to sit with Steven and Alex, but I ended up in the middle aisle while Amber and Liam took the outer aisle by the window. Amber, fortunately, reveled in her duty to care for her littlest brother during the flight. We got into San Juan late, but my parents and uncle met us that the car rental and led us to his house. The kids by this time were happy but exhausted and more than willing to plop into bed.
The vacation was a blast, and the stuff of future blogs, but I'm especially thankful for how Rob and I were able to put aside our feelings and turn what could have been a lousy start into an unexpected treat.

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