Family Dynamics on the Road
Extended travel with your family can be a rough road sometimes. We’re having one of those mornings, right now. Live. We are back on the road, living and traveling for five weeks this summer of 2010. We are in week two, the initial excitement wearing off, and I have been frequently reminded why moments in our year living in Spain were so hard… when you spend all of your time together, on top of each other in small spaces, tensions start to rise. Grace and courtesy are thrown out the window. Kids like to argue.
My daughters are making muffins this morning, but like most siblings who are 8 and 11, it’s turned into, “Don’t boss me.” “I want to do it.” “No, that’s not the right way!” My patience is waning. The only thing keeping my in this is the writing material. My husband’s patience was gone eight minutes ago. He’s managing to hold his tongue while he’s answering work emails and keeping one eye on the Tour de France. I try to remember my children are learning great social skills here. These are the opportunities to understand what can and can’t be said, what buttons to push, what consequences come about because of their words and actions. Reminding myself that this is a learning opportunity, that siblings have a great impact on shaping each other, helps me hang in there. I’ll give them another minute.
Extended travel and location independence has many benefits, and I am excited that we are trying to make it work for our family on a regular basis. I appreciate the slower pace it allows and the chance to blend in with the locals, to really experience a new place. It gets us out of our routines and allows for great time together as a family. We play more board games together, read aloud, share stories over long meals.
But living on the road requires some new rules too. It’s a hybrid of life and vacation, and with that comes an interesting blend of family dynamics. You’re not in your “normal” life routines but you’re not fully on vacation either. You’re in this middle place… baking muffins, answering emails, home-schooling, and then exploring the volcano or going to the beach. Rules and consequences and strategies you have at home all seem to change. It’s new terrain that takes some figuring out, negotiating, and compromising. Maybe it was easier traveling with them when they were babies?
You might wonder how I am managing to philosophize in the midst of my children’s bickering… my husband called “enough” a couple of minutes ago and the girls are each in one of the two bedrooms in this condo. Time-out. It’s blissfully quiet. My husband reunites them and sets down the reconciliation rules. I hear them in one of the rooms, whispering. They finally emerge, ready to cooperate and bake together. At least until lunch time.
Please tell me your kids argue too, whether traveling, at home, or in-between! It’ll make me feel better.