Finding a Safe Place for Big Emotions while Traveling

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Traveling is awesome. Traveling with kids is even…I won’t say “better,” but it is something more.

In some ways it’s more thrilling and awe-inspiring and exhilarating.

Everything is amazing and magical to kids. Whereas adults are more easily bored or unimpressed, kids are in a constant state of amazement with each new thing.

Well, typically. Mr. B might not have been overall impressed with his first sighting of Niagara Falls, commenting, “Well, they’re rather small.”

And traveling with kids takes a lot of patience. At least with my emotional brood. Then again, they always take a lot patience; but high stress situations like traveling require that much more.

Today after having conquered so much in Niagara Falls, we were stationed in the building where “Journey Behind the Falls” is run out of, snacking before we headed back to the main strip, when Mr. B finally hit his threshold of being too exhausted and overwhelmed.

He began to tell me not to eat. And then got visibly more upset with each bite I took. I realized he was on complete sensory overload as his face turned red, his eyes welled with tears, and his tiny hands clenched into a fist.

“Let’s go somewhere to talk,” I said to him, taking his hand.

“No!” He pulled away from me.

I handed my food off to J, and I unlatched the Ergo and gave Sweet M to my friend. Then I scooped Mr. B up and walked to a quiet stairwell that I’d been directed toward earlier when in search of a quiet place to breastfeed the ever-distracable Sweet M.

I sat on the stairs with Mr. B as he put on the show of trying to squirm out of my arms. If he’d really wanted to, he definitely could have. But he didn’t, he just couldn’t lose face and give in too easily.

I won’t lie; a part of me wanted to be cross and tell him to knock it off and pull himself together. I was tired and hungry and not particularly wanting to create a safe place for him in that moment to have a breakdown. But I’ve been mothering him long enough to know that being cross with him doesn’t get us anywhere. And I want this little boy to grow up to be a man who knows its okay to express him feelings; he doesn’t have to bottle then up and swallow them down; not even when they’re a bit inconvenient and tedious to work through at that moment.

But shit, it’s still hard some days.

“What’s going on, buddy?” I asked him.

“You’re so mean to me!” He lamented.

“Hm. I’m really sorry you feel that way. Why do you feel I’m mean to you?”

He didn’t respond, but instead squirmed again. I hugged him big and said, “You are so safe and so loved. You can tell me what’s going on.”

“I am not safe!” He objected. “You didn’t protect me!”

“What didn’t I protect you from?” I asked, suppressing the urge to assure him that of course I alway protect him, so his feelings must be wrong.

“I got scared in the maze and you weren’t right next to me; you were behind me!”

“I’m really sorry for that,” I told him. And I meant it. “I didn’t realize you got scared.”

“And last week some kids were so mean to me on the playground. They called me names a baby. It was so mean! And I got scared in my bedroom the other night. I thought there was a witch in there!”

He stopped, waiting for me to say simething.

“I’m really sorry all those things happened,” I said. “What can I do to help?”

His tense little body finally went limp as he laid his head on my shoulder. “You can put booby traps in my room.”

I nodded. “We can look into that.”

He went on to tell me about more injustices and scary moments that occured.

“You’re safe right here. If you need to have a cry to feel better, you can,” I told him.

“Okay.” He took off his glasses, buried his snotty face into my chest, and had a cry. After a few minutes he wiped his eyes with his hands, his nose with his shirt, pushed away from me and said, “Okay, we can go back now.”

Y’all, traveling with kids is a blast. But it’s still real life. Just because it’s fun and exciting doesn’t mean it’s dreamy and free of big emotions and moments that require more patience than I sometimes even know I have.

I’m not perfect. I don’t always react the way I know I should. But I try.

Travelling can be so overwhelming for kids (and adults!). Fun and excuting, yes, but the newness, the intensity, it can be a lot often times. So I try to be mindful of how emotionally challenging it can be for my tiny humans of habit, and make it as stress-free and easy for them as possibke. And find a safe place for them to work through those big feelings when needed.

I love Travelling with these kids. Adventures are our thing. We are always learning knew things. And being their safe spot never gets a vacation; that’s a 24/7 rest-of-their-life gig.

And even when I’m overwhelmed myself, I’m still happy to oblige. I’m rather partial to my crazy progenies. 

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