We (finally) arrived home in Charlotte today after a sleepless (for two of us, anyway) night at Miami International Airport. While the last leg of our trip did not remotely go as expected (our misfortunes continued right up to the point we picked our car up in long-term parking), it hasn’t overshadowed just how amazing the vacation was.
The trip was, however, a learning experience. As I had discussed with Miles before we left, there were many uncertainties, all of which stemmed from us never having been on such an ambitious journey with a four-year-old in tow. Questions such as “Will our kid like flying?” and “Will this be too much for him?” and “Will he listen to us in the most critical moments (say, in any crowded, public space)?” swirled through my mind beforehand, and honestly continued to do so throughout our vacation.
I learned the answers to many of these over the week. Yes, Miles still loves flying. No, he won’t listen when you need him to. But perhaps most importantly, we spent a total of seven full days in Costa Rica, and for anyone wondering just how long a trip should last when you have a four-year-old with you, it is six days.
Miles was generally agreeable and mostly well-behaved those first six days, especially considering how grueling our activities were for him (despite them being a HUGE step down from how aggressively Jaclyn and I usually handle vacation itineraries). By that seventh day, though, it was starting to matter less how busy we were or how much down-time was involved in our day, how rested Miles was or not…he was getting punchy and inconsolable. We reached the point where no impending reward or punishment seemed to be able to quell his behavior. Our one saving grace came at dinner time, when we found ourselves surrounded by a gaggle of children FAR less well-behaved than Miles (one — I’m not exaggerating here — almost got hit by a car, then appeared to have learned nothing from the experience). Even Miles seemed a little taken aback. “Well,” I said to Jaclyn, “I guess it could be worse.”
That last day, and knowing just how badly we needed to get Miles back home and on a consistent schedule again, certainly added to my frustration and anxiety over the abrupt change to our return flight(s). But I had a lot of time to think once we got settled into our ten-hour layover. Was this just a routine thing? Realistically, all the challenges and behaviors Miles had been exhibiting weren’t unusual at all.
The conclusion I’ve come to is that it isn’t traveling with a four-year-old that’s especially challenging. It’s simply having a four-year-old that’s challenging. Travel, don’t travel, it makes no difference. You’ve got a four-year-old either way.