Traveling with children, as my wife and I did last week, is, for those of you who have not experienced it, anything but relaxing. A man in the San Juan Airport departure terminal Tuesday, noticing Lisa chasing after our 2-year-old, Ellis, remarked out of the blue that she looked tired. I am sure I am looking tired, too, as I write this on a Delta flight back to J.F.K. After we land, we have at least two more hours on the road.
The trip to Puerto Rico was our first time on a jet plane since we became a family of five. We had waited until Ellis was past the infant stage to pack up and go. Even then, we almost chickened out.
Beyond the obvious logistics of counting enough diapers into the carry-ons and cramming everything else into rolling suitcases, getting away with the kids is an exercise in diplomacy. I’m not talking about peacemaking with fellow travelers back here in the cheap seats, but brokering the young ones’ differing desires and internal clocks.
Ellis, being a boy, has two speeds: off and supersonic. The girls, now 7 and 10, are harder to read. A sunburn or a hungry belly can change the tone of a day in a flash from happy to melancholy. One girl may want to go the the beach, the other the pool. Evvy decides she misses her school friends. Her sister doesn’t want to go home.
Lisa and I spent most of our week away in management mode, ironing out the conflicting moods, packing the Jeep for a ride to the surf, shuttling to another spot for a lunch of chicken pinchos, a kind of kebob.
The division of labor broke down roughly like this: I took the girls snorkeling while Lisa watched Ellis on the beach. Then we switched; Lisa could take a dip and I’d chase the wild toddler around on the sand. Back at our week’s rental, I’d make dinner; Lisa would get Ellis washed up and into pajamas. The next day, we repeated it all.
The hours flew past in a blur. In all, Lisa and I had no more than a few minutes when all three kids were occupied and we could hold hands and catch a breath. Not that I am complaining. Being a parent is what it is.