My Alligator Pitch {re: Traveling with Small Children}

Our family has spent more time on the road this summer than the past 5 years combined.We spent 7 weeks living in Alabama (that’s an 18 hour trip of you drive straight through, folks) and were home only 12 days before flying down to Dallas for 5 days. The fall holds at least one more road trip for our little band.

We get a lot of raised eyebrows when friendly people in alligators (that’s ‘elevators’ to you who can pronounce it) or at Churches we visit asking us, ‘Where y’all from?’ When you mention you’re from the opposite side of the country and they count the kids you have in tow, they naturally begin to question your sanity and your decision making abilities.

To be honest, there are days this week I’ve questioned that myself.

A seasoned flier after only two flights, Seth demands his tray table

This week’s trip was to a business conference we’re privileged to attend with Jeremy each year. It’s the type of event held in a fancy hotel, and the dress code for the entire weekend is business casual to formal. Kids are a rarity in this environment, and though most people are delighted to share an alligator with 3 adorable children (usually because they’re missing their own kids or grandkids), shock and awe are usually right up there with delight.

I’ve had to explain myself over and over this week when people ask why we do what we do: why we would take our kids along with us on a trip like this. And each time I’m asked, I find myself grateful for the opportunity to remind MYSELF why we do what we do, because usually I’ve just finished calming a child who’s missed another nap, or breaking up a dispute about who gets to press the button on the alligator, or brainstorming with my husband what we should do for lunch in the hotel room that’s not too expensive or junk food-ish.

(Newsflash: I ate McDonald’s today. It did not kill me. But I can hardly wait to get home and start the Milk Cure again!)

My faithful little doorman rests while we wait for the Front Desk to figure out why our room key suddenly won’t let us in our room after being out of our room for 12 hours…

I need the reminder because traveling with kids is NOT easy. In fact, in this season, it doesn’t even feel worth it. It feels much more practical to send Daddy off on a business venture or to a conference on his own, instead of hauling all 5 of us hither and yon.

But as I had the privilege to explain to more than 1/2 dozen strangers today, we do this because we believe in doing things as a family.

We’re aware that we’re building our family culture in these early years, and togetherness is a big part of our vision. We want to be a family who works together, plays together, worships together, and serves together. So, we travel together, too.

My darlings pose {protesting} in the hot sun outside of the American Airlines Arena during lunch break at the conference.

And often traveling together puts us in rather intense seasons of more family togetherness than we even have when we’re at home–like living in a bus together for a whole summer, or sharing a hotel room for 5 days, or having no other relationships to distract us from each other. Like a new workout, these times build muscles you didn’t even know existed.

An alligator ride is often too short a time to share with a stranger everything I’ve just hammered out to you here, but even in a short conversation you can tell when you’ve made an impact. People back away, and keep turning to look back on this odd little family, working so hard to stay together in a pull-apart world. This afternoon we even had one woman walk away in tears, completely choked up by the vision we shared in response to her persistent questions as to “why???”

It was timely encouragement to me to read this passage in “Guardians of Purity” this week–

“Creating family connectedness takes planning and determination. Everything in our culture screams ‘peers’ and individualism. Very little speaks of coming together as a family.” Julie Hiramine, Guardians of Purity

Julie reminded me how important it is to be intentional about family connectedness. She helped me, during a harrowing week, to know we are on the right track.

People asked me “How do you travel with your kids?”. I ask you, how could I leave these darlings home????

And as I tucked my children into bed after another marathon day, I laughed to hear what was on their hearts after another adventure far from our little white house in the Fingerlakes…

From Claire (all in a space of 3 min. as I put her to bed in the hotel room)

  • “Mom, where’s our white house?”
  • “Mom, are we going to go in an airplane to New ‘Ork?”
  • “Mom, I wanna get married tomorrow”
  • (after singing ‘You Are My Sunshine”) “Seth is my sunshine.”

From Jesse–now a well traveled almost-6 year old:

  • “If you see a freckle moving…it’s a tick.”
  • “I want to drive one of those [stretch hummers] all over the world someday.”

And from Seth, who gets excited whenever there’s more than two of something:

  • “More bus and more bus and more bus and more bus!”
  • “More plane and more plane and more plane and more plane!”

And now, I’m going to sleep, because Mommy is more tired and more tired and more tired and more tired…

For the Fellowship...What does your family do that’s just a little bit odd? Do you eat different, talk different, relax different, or learn different because of a unique family vision? I’d love to hear about it. Funny stories of strangers’ reactions welcome!

 

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Comments

  1. says

    We’re weird in that we DON’T like to go lots of places…we prefer to spend time home as a family, not ditching kids with baby sitters and travelling, or travelling and sight-seeing without kids.

    So much of this world is “what about me?” , everyone is out for themselves and their time on their times. I think it’s refreshing for all of you to travel together.

  2. says

    My parents took us on many cross country, four day long road trips growing up (we lived in the mid-west, but had family on both the west coast and east coast). I am so thankful they did! We loved those trips, and looking back, they are some of my favorite childhood memories. My husband and I also believe in doing things as a family- people wonder why I won’t go and visit my parents without him, I mean, don’t wives and husbands need breaks from one another every once in awhile? Maybe it works for some, but we happened to get married because we like being together :). Glad you are having a good (albeit, tricky!) summer of traveling :).

    • Trina says

      “We happened to get married because we like being together”–love it!!! My sentiments exactly. Thanks for making me feel a little more normal by sharing your story, Rachel ;)

  3. says

    God bless you, your family and your decision to do things as a FAMILY! When my sibs and I were growing up, Mom and Daddy piled us in the truck with camper on top and we saw the USA. IWe’d drive from VA to Yellowstone National Park and see Wall Drug Store, Badlands, Corn Palace and a whole lot more. That was just one summer’s two week vacation! There were so many more years of such wonderfulness and good memory making. I wouldn’t trade *anything* for those years of family togetherness and fun.

    • Trina says

      It’s such fun to hear everyone’s stories of great memories while traveling as a family. I’ll keep focused on these stories next time it gets a little wearying :)

  4. says

    Yep, we grew up rv-ing across the nation. Not all at one go mind you – just a week at a time as Dad had vacation available. My in-laws didn’t grow up traveling nearly as much as we did, but they also enjoy family trips to the beach and things like that.

    One thing I had to learn about families though is that there are different ways of being close. My family was very much a do everything together sort of family. We’d all gather in the family room in the evening with our books and such, and we just spent a lot of time together. Allen’s family spent a whole lot more time in their own rooms doing their own things. But, Allen’s family is better about talking about things than my family. In my family there were things that you just didn’t talk about – like political differences – whereas Allen can have really intense discussions with his brothers over these issues without anyone getting their feelings ruffled.

    • Trina says

      “different ways of being close”–I get this. I pray I can foster a togetherness in our family that goes beyond being in the same room or vehicle together. Having a productive discussion without letting it disrupt family unity is an art I am learning. Thanks for this, Natalie.

  5. says

    I LOVE that you want to be together so bad that you even travel all five inside alligators to accomplish it ;) we’ve had a lot of “whys” sent our way too, as my husband has been transporting cars all over the country with the wife and baby in tow ;)

  6. Amy says

    Yes, we too have gotten those looks! I loved this article! What a great reminder and encouragement to a sometimes frazzled mother that it IS worth it. I also really appreciated the quote about our society being peer-centric. That is very true, but I do not recall having it put in words like that.

    We took our daughter on a missions trip to Poland when she was 2. It was a bit tricky logistically, but the best decision we could have made. We wanted to be deliberate about serving God as a family. Carrying our daughter around in a hiking backpack turned ot to be a great conversation starter.

    Another “weird” thing we do is to take Daddy lunch or treats at work on his break. It doesn’t seem that weird to me, but it sometimes feels like the reverse of going to the zoo.

    • Trina says

      Amy, my husband (and me!) loved your comment of trips to work feeling like ‘the reverse of going to the zoo’! Sounds familiar, and I love your way of putting it. :)

  7. Samantha R says

    I love that; family connectedness! It is indeed a beautiful thing and what a blessing too that you can travel together and do so many things together. I cherish my family and how close we are… I believe it’s how God wants families to be; esp in this day and age where it’s a rarity. We can be a light to the world!

  8. says

    Oh, I love this. We were that crazy family all along…and still are! Traveling together is one of the blessings I always count first when people ask my why I liked being homeschooled. While everyone else was in carpool lines, we were heading across the country. It is a beautiful thing! Keep it up.

  9. says

    Ah I loved this. We were blessed to be in the military when our babies were little. This required us to foster a family relationship within our small group. I see other families who are blessed with grandparents and extended family nearby and I know there are pros to that situation as well, I just am eternally thankful for the position we were in. I don’t know I would have had the strength to do things the way we did them otherwise. And I’m so grateful we could do them that way. Especially now that my oldest is starting his life on his own.

    • Trina says

      Stacey, can’t tell you how much your comment meant to me. Thank you for your example of making the best of what you had in that season–to see it as an opportunity to become a tight-knit family. I’m very inspired.