3 Reasons Why Traveling With Kids From Trauma Is Worth It.

It’s often a dreaded adventure for foster and adoptive parents: summer travel. Or any travel, for that matter. Often, we wonder, is it worth it? Maybe we’re safer just staying home? We’re here to tell you, it is worth it. And here’s why…

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Living far from family means we travel occasionally. Four kids requires extra care when traveling on an airplane. Four kids with trauma and sensory issues requires extra, extra care when traveling on an airplane. Four kids, with medical needs, and trauma and sensory issues requires extra, extra, extra care when traveling on an airplane.

Excitement was flowing, which means anxiety is surfacing. My kids LOVE going to Poppy and Grammy’s. Good anxiety/bad anxiety = same result. Trauma lesson #1. Sensory issues require paying an extra $50 for a suitecase…of stuffed animals. Trauma lesson #2.

We picked the kids up from their beds, tossed them in the car and off we went. Check-in lady was feeling nice and allowed Daddy to escort us to the gate. My most sensory deprived kid went through security and kissed the x-ray machine.

Yes, you read that right…I said “Kissed it.”

Alarms sounded and the TSA peeps scolded him causing more anxiety. I was pulled aside (as always) with my cooler of medicine. Sixteen bottles, all liquid. This requires every bottle to be opened and tested and also a full pat-down. TSA lady says to me that apparently I’ve done this before because I’m very patient.

Yep.

Yep to the “done this before,” not the patient part.

We kiss Daddy goodbye and head down the runway. Everyone settles in and I notice my daughter’s huge brown eyes and long lashes looking truly broken. She rarely looks sad. Mad, annoyed, vengeful, yes, but rarely sad. My asking caused giant tears to flow down her softened cheeks. Apparently the details of the trip didn’t translate to a 4-year-old that Daddy wasn’t coming with us. Not just any 4-year-old, a 4-year-old with attachment issues. Goodbyes are really, really hard on a child with attachment issues.

And just like that…her sadness turned to the more familiar P O’d.

Her P O’d-ness began with her refusing to put on her seatbelt. And then standing up to let the family behind us know she was P O’d. And then kicking the seat in front of her. And asking for everything under the sun, only to refuse it once I gave it to her. Suddenly I became the antagonist holding strawberry pudding in my hand, her screaming for it, and me withholding it.

What the neighbors judging me didn’t know is that I put medicine in the pudding and knew she would throw it or spit it out. So I held it in my hand while she screamed, “Give me my pudding!!!!!!” I thought about commencing the seatbelt wrestling match but did what was in everyone’s best interest and called the flight attendant. I pointed to my daughter’s lap.

“Is she yours?” I bet bio parents never get asked that question. She proceeded to tell my daughter she had to put her seatbelt on or the police would come. I would be appalled that someone would say that to a 4-year-old, but apparently on an airplane it’s true. She listened to HER like I knew she would. In the air, Frozen on, and she forgot all about not getting the memo about Daddy. And I fed her the pudding.

A man tells my son to stop pushing back on his knees which was in protest to my “no” to buying airplane snacks. Of course we brought our own, but they are never as cool.

Then came, “I’M BORRREEDDDD!”

Nails on a chalkboard to any parent, but out of this kid’s mouth…dangerous. Especially on an airplane. The young angel sitting with him asked all kinds of questions which always results in a conversation about anything…football. She let them play on her phone, shared her snacks, which of course were more delicious than ours. When the plane landed, he was sitting in her lap to peek out the window because he just had to spy our suitcases.

In his words, “She doesn’t care, Mom. She’s a teacher.”

Bless her heart.

Traveling is hard on kids from trauma. Newness is hard on kids from trauma. Crowds and hustle and bustle and lack of sleep because of time change and environments are hard on kids from trauma.

Avoiding birthday parties, extracurricular activities and sometimes even church are what’s in the best interest of our kids. Then there’s those things we know if we do them will end up bad…and we do them anyway.

Because…IT’S WORTH IT! Sometimes, it’s just worth it!

My kids love going to Poppy and Grammy’s. While there are a bazillion reasons why summer travel is not a good idea, here are 3 reasons that just might make it worth it.

  1. It’s good for MY soul. I got just enough of a break to get me going again. With a cleared mind, I was able to see beauty in things I never noticed before. Like the wind blowing soy bean leaves back and forth creating a rolling green carpet. Simple. But refreshing.
  2. It’s good for my kids to build relationships with others. They have other adults speaking truth into their lives. Teaching them new skills and knowing that we may have to say goodbye for a time, but family is still family. And they always come back.
  3. What we remember is not what they remember. While the memories seared into my brain are the arduous travel experience and the strawberry pudding, they remember catching lightning bugs with cousins, how the sun doesn’t sleep until 9:30, golf cart rides through the wooded 5-acres to count bunnies and pick wild berries, checking on the bird houses built with Poppy previous years, building the world’s largest bonfire that the fire truck may or may not investigate, a canoe ride that resulted in everyone falling out because Mommy didn’t steer quite right.

Then comes the even more daunting trek home with now exhausted children creating more havoc on an airplane. Summer creeps around again, and someone asks, “When are we going to Poppy and Grammy’s?” And the excitement/anxiety cycle begins again. And I ask myself, “Is it worth it?”

Yes, it is! And I pull out my calendar and begin planning for next year.

Question: Have you attempted to travel with your kiddos recently? How was it? Share your story with us in the comment section below. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Joan Short

    This was our story just a few weeks ago! The only difference was that ours was a 2 week road trip!! I contemplated the pros and cons for quite a while before starting my plans. Our 3 kids have only done a few 4-day trips so this would be quite a stretch – from IL to Seattle! The Hubs would drive out with us but after a week fly home which left me driving home by myself with the kids. I planned for every possible scenario that I could think of – from minimal sensory triggers to tantrums to all-out rages! Flexibility was my key. I made my plans but also figured in what I call flex days. If someone was having a meltdown, we’d stay put until it was safe to move forward. We took lots of sensory breaks! We had a couple minor meltdowns and two serious meltdowns which led to cancelling a couple of agenda items. With kids like ours, you always expect the unexpected!! We built memories that our kids will remember forever! Overall I’d say the trip was a HUGE success!! (However, not planning to do that again any time soon -it was a lot of work!)

    • Michelle Sackett McKinney

      Yay!!! So glad you were able to build memories! But yes, it is sooooo much work! Now get some rest!