When asked about the difference between having three kids versus two, I usually talk about the level of difficulty added to the “getting out of the house” game.
At my kids’ ages of 5, 3 and 17 months – a simple trip to the grocery store becomes an event. One will most likely have to pee the minute everyone is buckled. You try to figure out whose melting point is close to boiling and keep them cooled off. You pray another one won’t be upset about being a walker instead of a cart-sitter.
Because of that, as we neared our departure date for our family vacation to Marco Island last week, it was hard to keep my mind from the “how are we going to pull this off” place. I was imagining all of the scenarios that could happen on the plane. I was stressing about how much we had to pack. I was wondering if this whole attempt at flying our family to the beach with such young kids was even worth the chaos and the money.
As those thoughts took over, the newly-trained part of my mind triggered me.
“You’re doing it again!” it warned. “Thinking of the negative. Worrying. Robbing yourself of the GOOD by finding the bad.”
It was right.
I was about to go on VACATION for goodness sakes.
I had been stressing about my messy house. I had been craving quality time with my kids and my husband. And yet there I was… still letting my mind wander to all that was bad about disappearing to the beach with my family.
So I cut that crap out.
And I made the mental pivot.
I thought less about the stress of packing, and more about how cute the kids would look in their summer gear. I thought more about how good the sun would feel, and less about how stressed I was that I didn’t have many clothes that I felt excited about wearing. I thought about my daughter’s face after her first jump in the pool and my baby’s adorableness in her hooded swimsuit . I imagined my plane-loving-little dude’s excitement about getting to be a ticketed passenger.
I simply chose positivity – and refused any thought that didn’t support simply embracing the adventure.
And it was a good thing I did … because “adventure” showed its face on day one.
The morning before our early-afternoon flight, we were a tornado of bodies running around doing last minute packing at 7am while simultaneously getting our kids ready for their 8am and 10am soccer games that ended up being a cold, rainy and windy mess. Our car battery died right before we were supposed to leave the fields to the airport. Once we finally got on our way, I realized I forgot all of my contact lenses.
While on the plane’s descent, the baby vomited on herself, my husband and the surrounding square footage of plane. My son wailed in anger after I had to wake him up and move him away from the vomit. I turned and saw my oldest with a white face, blue lips and distant eyes looking like she was about to faint. After 10 minutes of telling me her swaying body felt weird, we called for a medic to meet us at the gate. After three EMTs determined she was ok, we continued to baggage claim and I looked over and realized that we were strolling a baby through the airport with puke in her hair wearing just a diaper because “pack extra clothes in the carry-on in case of puke” wasn’t checked off the list.
My husband reeked of puke while he waited for the rental car place to figure out why our agreement wasn’t showing up as kids begged to get to the beach in the background.
Adventure was sitting shotgun on this trip.
At some point, we FINALLY got on the road to our home base for the week. My husband and I had a moment where we looked at each other – and just started laughing and shaking our heads.
Because we HAD to, right?!
But had I not made that pre-trip mental pivot, there would have been tears and frustration where laughter and perspective were. I would have said “we shouldn’t have even done this” multiple times. I would have let my mind convince me that the rest of the trip was going to be just as chaotic.
Instead, I laughed.
But most importantly? I found an abundance of gratitude.
An appreciation that we had enough time to squeeze in the kids soccer games that morning and hilariously watch my little man celebrate his score into the wrong goal.
An appreciation for the soccer Dad with jumper cables who was probably late for his kid’s game but chose to help us anyways.
An appreciation that I have the kind of friend who picked up my call, took time out of her family day, got into my house, retrieved my contacts and drove them 20-minutes to me at the airport.
An appreciation for the people on the plane who didn’t roll their eyes when they realized they were sitting next to a young family on the plane.
A DEEP appreciation for the Frontier Airlines flight attendant who didn’t flinch at helping me clean up the puke for the baby or at getting help for my oldest. For the medics at the Fort Myers Airport who were so great with my little girl and for the pilot who didn’t have to stick around and make sure that my daughter was ok… but did anyways.
An appreciation for my husband who NEVER folds in situations like this.
An appreciation that we could take this trip in the first place.
An appreciation that I have worked hard enough on myself to learn to embrace the adventure, and not let the unplanned moments ruin a memory.
Because once we got to our destination, we got our feet underneath us… and the memories that ensued were worth every bit of it. And so was the feeling of joy for being on the receiving end of the goodness of the people around me on day one.
And so it goes with life, doesn’t it?
We have to go after it without the fear of what “could” happen. We have to accept that there will be a little chaos in the journey. We can’t give up when it starts out hard. We have to rely on a little help from the ones we love, and some kindness from strangers we encounter. We have to be a beacon of light seeking out the gratitude in the hurdles. And we have to be able to laugh along the way.
Because THAT is where the beauty of the adventure lies. And I refuse to miss out on whatever the next one is to come.