So much for low expectations… Best. Trip. Ever. The reactions to the suitcases really made us question the decision last minute. When we got to the airport, one of the TSA agents told us about the expedited family line at the other side of the airport. J’s eyes just LIT up, he got a huge grin on his face, and he excitedly announced, “HEY! WE are a family!” That we are, little buddy. The TSA agent looked super confused and my eyes welled up with tears. It was incredibly cute and warmed my heart…but also broke my heart that a young child would be so excited about having a family. Something most of us have taken for granted our whole lives. Once again thankful for the perspective my wise kiddos give me.
“A” was really nervous on the airplane, but it was amazing to watch her nurture the teddy bear she brought with as a means for coping. Even more amazing, she used her words…”Mom, I’m nervous” and reached out to take my hand. Huge.
The kids’ behavior was absolutely amazing. Not even our new definition of amazing, either! Our old one. Literally five or six random strangers approached us while out and about to comment on how well behaved our kids were. I kept looking around for Ashton Kutcher. Is this happening?! I laughed to myself – if these people only knew! We had planned on hunkering down at the resort if/when it all hit the fan, but we were able to experience all kinds of amazing things. We visited a sea turtle hospital, swam in beautiful pools, went snorkeling, went sailing at sunset (dolphins swam right up to our boat), went jet skiing on the ocean, ate out at fancy restaurants (if you only knew how far we have come with eating out!), and went air boating through the Everglades. Every single day was perfect and fun.
On the second or third day of the trip, J all of the sudden flipped a switch and started calling Charlie “Dad.” Something about this “family vacation” was just vital for the health of our family. None of us told anyone our story. Usually the kids blurt things out and Charlie and I feel the urge to explain ourselves. There were no services, no explanations, no drama. Just us. Just our family. Several times people commented on how much the kids looked like us. We all just exchanged knowing glances, smiled, and said “we know.”
On the way home, a flight attendant caught my eye. He approached me, got down on my level, and reminded me that I needed to put my oxygen mask on first. Then he touched Charlie’s arm and slowly and gently told him the same thing. I have no idea if this is a policy or not…I have heard that message repeatedly but have never seen them individually tell people. Policy or not, I don’t believe in coincidences and it was a powerful metaphorical reminder for us to take care of ourselves so we can effectively show up for our kids.
Our last day of traveling was really stressful and hard…the kids were disregulated and anxious and exhausted. We were also exhausted as well as stressed about the very busy airport and delayed flights/missed connections. J and A were playing a fun game of “let’s try to get lost and see if Mom and Dad care enough to notice.” A stranger sitting next to us approached us and out of the blue said, “You are wonderful parents. You are so calm. You’re doing great, and your kids respond well to you.” I wonder if she knows how much that meant to us in the midst of chaos and stress and self-consciousness, and I will likely draw from that in future rough times. I am resolving to say those things out loud to people in the future, as I often think them.
Almost as fantastic as how smooth things went (aside from that last day of traveling) was hearing J and A make comments about being excited to go “home” and sleep in “their own beds.” I think they are finally accepting the fact that this is home, and those will ALWAYS be their own beds.