In the last posting, I mentioned briefly how we went on a grand, whirlwind tour of Florida last week. It was a nice time, and a good opportunity to get away from the Minnesota cold for a brief while (we weren’t aware when scheduling the trip that last week would be a very unseasonably warm one for Minnesota, known across the rest of the country as “only a little chilly”). Of course, we learned a great deal about doing these kinds of trips, especially with a very opinionated toddler, so I want to share some of those pieces of wisdom with you.
1) If you can afford it, spring for the extra ticket to put your toddler in a car seat on the plane.
Seriously, this was incredibly helpful, and I don’t know if we would have thought of it if it hadn’t been for the fact that HawtWife had already done so when taking Nugget with her to Maryland for a holiday trip. Yes, I looked like a bizarre hunchback while wandering through the airport, and no, they don’t actually make car seat backpacks that are comfortable, but being able to strap Nugget down into a seat that she’s familiar with? Golden. This was brought to more stunning clarity on the return trip, where we were seated near another family with a child about Nugget’s age. At the end of the flight, we were relatively refreshed. The other family? Exhausted, largely from having to try to wrangle a small child that kept wanting to bounce and climb and explore. Nugget may not have gotten to experience as much, but she slept. At this point, I think that’s more important.
2) Bring a stroller, but don’t be surprised if it remains mostly empty.
It didn’t matter where we went. Monday was a trip through Epcot. Tuesday was the Magic Kingdom. Wednesday was a walk along the shore in Palm Beach. Thursday was a visit to the Miami Seaquarium. At exactly none of those places did Nugget want to put up with being strapped down in her stroller. No, she wanted to walk. She wanted to walk so incredibly badly, that she would fight and struggle at any point that we even thought about getting her into the stroller, so that she could be contained for a brief moment. I was able to capture a photo of Nugget completely asleep in her stroller on Monday. I think it’s the last time that she spent more than five minutes consecutively in it during the entire trip.
3) Pick your food battles.
One thing we learned about the differences between Epcot and the Magic Kingdom was the ease of finding foods whenever we needed (and, with a toddler, “need” definitely took precedence over “schedule”). It seemed like everywhere we looked in Epcot, there were a ton of little food booths, with a wide variety of things to eat. That isn’t even taking into account the on-site restaurants, which can be awesome if you’ve prepared yourself. In the Magic Kingdom, it was difficult to find anything that could be considered “food” outside of the permanent restaurants. Sure, you could get popcorn or a hot dog wherever you went, but those aren’t really food. And neither of those options were high on our list of “things to try while also wrangling a toddler who is both over-tired and hungry, but sees so much cool stuff she doesn’t want to stop”. This is why Nugget ended up having fries for breakfast at the Magic Kingdom… it was really all we could (easily) find and still have time to get her to her appointment with a mermaid.
4) Be careful what you wish for.
One of the great and terrifying things about Nugget is that she has practically no fear. Some things will startle her, but she isn’t really scared of much. Nothing proved this more than trying to keep pace with her as she was running through the park, refusing to hold the hand of either parent, and weaving her way back and forth through fairly decent-sized crowds. Maybe things would have been different if she’d spent more time looking up when she was moving, but she seemed to see a goal, and just put her head down to achieve it. During one of the few moments we actually had her restrained, HawtWife pointed out that she had wanted a child that was fearless. We then laughed, set Nugget down, and had to immediately catch her from yet another potentially dangerous-to-kids situation. Fearless, indeed.
5) It might be the hottest part of the day, but watch the parade.
Before Nugget was a part of my life, I truly didn’t get parades. I thought they were silly. Actually, I still kind of think that they’re silly, but I’m starting to see why kids seem to love them. After all, you get to see a lot of stuff, usually with very bright colors or a lot of movement, and it’s constantly changing. The parade at the Magic Kingdom was something special, even to my jaded eyes. For one thing, it’s the best way I can think of to see as many of the characters as possible in one fell swoop. Secondly, I was able to feel the sheer joy and awe radiating off of Nugget as she watched everything go by. I thought she’d tune out after Anna and Elsa’s float had passed, but she was enraptured the entire time. Finally, there’s no way to really “get” the impact that Disney has had on the lives of those around you until you see adults breaking down in tears because they’re watching Mickey and Minnie ride by on a float. So yeah, that was actually a pretty cool moment, even if I was pretty sure that I dropped 10 pounds in the sun.
6) Take some time to enjoy the fish.
Not via sea food, unless that’s your thing, in which case, by all means. No, this is about us making sure that Nugget got to visit an aquarium. Her favorite animals at the zoo since day one have been the fish. She’s starting to like other creatures as well, but none of them get quite the squeal, giggle, and emphatic pointing that fish do. We weren’t quite prepared for her rapid running in circles, although it did give us an opportunity to practice steering her with our hands as if she was a horse wearing blinders. Oh, and before you start saying that you aren’t a big fan of seeing fish, this isn’t really about fish. It’s about taking some time specifically for something you know you’ll enjoy. Trust me, it pays off in spades.
7) Don’t be afraid to hide for a while.
Given that this entire trip was revolving around a work trip for HawtWife, there wasn’t a lot of downtime for her. This was compounded by the fact that Nugget was being VERY mom-clingy while we were there (I get it, she sees me all the time. I’m a little clingy to HawtWife when she’s around, too), so even when our schedule wasn’t tightly packed, she didn’t get a lot of time for herself. I wish she had, because that’s what Nugget and I took Wednesday doing. For all intents and purposes, I tried to sort of recreate what things are like most of the time we’re home, albeit in a different location, with a few more opportunities. Monday and Tuesday were crazy, and Thursday was bound to be a little insane as well, so I kind of enforced a slow-down on Wednesday for Nugget and I, and I think it made a world of difference for the two of us. Sadly, HawtWife didn’t get to embrace that same kind of down time, but we made a point of getting her some over the weekend, back at home.
8) Be willing to let someone else take the lead.
This applies to so many different aspects of life. Sometimes it’s hard to just sit back and let someone else be in charge. To let them carve out whatever path you need to follow. Now, I don’t necessarily recommend going to a new place with a spirited toddler and just go wherever they will take you, but you can sometimes find some pretty cool experiences by stepping out of your own eyes and trying to look through theirs. Just stay close to them. Eventually, they’ll reach for your hand again, and you don’t want to be even six inches too far away. And, while it’s all happening, don’t be surprised if other people look at you, unsure if they should help, or just marvel at your ability to weave through crowds while keeping your eyes below most people’s waist-levels.