Last month during my husband’s four-week absence, I packed up my three kids and flew from Los Angeles to Boston for a two-week trip to visit family. The kids are 3 months, 25 months, and 4 years old… and I got more than my fair share of “are you crazy?” looks from fellow passengers as I herded my flock of children, backpacks, stroller, food bags, sippy cups down the runway. I was nervous, of course, and solicited prayer from the willing. Happily, it went well. The two 6-hour flights were fine – one excellent, one decent (the lowlight being when my eldest puked his guts out as the plane reached the gate, with throngs of people trying to exit); the trip itself was lovely. I’d definitely do it again.
“How on earth did you do it alone with the three kids?” people have been asking me since. I’m certainly not exceptional; I know a number of other moms who have traveled alone with three. But still, the questions has gotten me thinking. How did I do it? Part of it was straight-up motivation: I wanted to spend a couple weeks with family back east more than stay home without my husband for a month. Part of it was organization: having everything I needed (and nothing extra since I did all the carrying) on the plane. Part of it was experience: I’ve flown solo with kids numerous times before, though only with two. But the biggest part of it? Having children who obey me.
Last fall, almost exactly one year prior, I traveled alone with my two oldest children – then aged 14 months and 3 years. That trip was much harder and more taxing than this past one – even though the transit time was identical and I only had two kids, not three. Why? Because at that time, I did not have control over my children. At least, not that much. Every day, every situation brought wildcards in terms of how things would go down, especially from my 3-year old. I was primarily reactive – chasing my kids around, trying (often unsuccessfully) to get them to listen, hoping for the best. Needless to say, the ‘best’ did not always unfold. And when it didn’t – on a plane of all places – it was not pretty.
The majority of American children, as far as I can see, have not been trained to consistently obey their parents. Last year mine were among this group. Hence our plane trip was difficult and, in some moments, awful. Today, though I’m here to attest that those who have been trained are a lot more fun to take on a plane.
Things are different this year because, as I’ve described, my role as an authority figure to be obeyed and respected is now established. This reality brings harmony, peace, and a more even demeanor to everyone in our family – my kids and me. They respond to my instructions without my having to jump through hoops to get them to do so. Are we perfect? No, we most certainly are not. But the fact that my children receive my authority makes ventures like traveling cross-country on a plane doable and reasonably pleasant for all. There’s of course room for improvement, as I noted at several junctures, and work still to be done (when won’t there be?). But I’ll take ‘reasonable pleasant’ any day of the week on a plane with three young kids.
The trip, I was thinking, was an example of ‘taking our show on the road.’ The stuff we do at home as we work through kids’ behaviors, sins, attitudes, words – day in and day out – only exported to a public venue. And the thing I’ve been pondering is how the work of consistently training children at home to obey their parents means that we can do things. We can go places, we can take trips. I don’t have to be afraid of all hell breaking loose if a child erupts. When problems arise (as of course they will), harmony can usually be restored fairly quickly. Being able to ‘take the show on the road’ and have it go fairly well is one of the fruits of “training a child in the way he should go” – a beautiful thing, and so freeing.
My husband and I talked about this last weekend when we took our three out to a pizza place for lunch. We agreed that the outing was easier and more fun now with three kids than it would have been this time last year with two – again, simply because at that time we hadn’t brought our children under our authority. Probably the best resource we’ve used in this process – if anyone is interested – is Raising Godly Tomatoes, about which I’ve blogged before (here, here, and here). Worth checking out if you haven’t yet.