Dear Travel Mates,
We’ve hit a milestone in our trip. It’s been almost a month, we’ve come two thirds across the country, we’ve slept in 18 hotels, and it’s all been in order to get to Yellowstone before it closes.
And now that our tour of Yellowstone and the Tetons, and the first leg of our journey is officially over, an update is in order.
Yellowstone was spectacular. I knew nothing about it beforehand. I didn’t realize that the beauty of the park is in large part due to the diversity of the landscape. There are natural hot springs that dot the surface with colors ranging from deep turquoise to copper red.
There are Geysers – water shooting out of the ground due to the combination of the heat from magma underneath and the glacial water flowing down from the mountains, that often look like mini volcanoes made out of chunky white clay and range from huge to tiny.
There are Fumaroles, holes in the ground that emit steam which gives the landscape either a magical fairy tale feel or a post-apocalypse vibe depending on your mood.
And best of all, there are canyons, mountains, huge waterfalls, and a river flowing through all of it. Oh, and wildlife too.
Once again, we were hand-held by Gypsy Guide, an app that follows our progress and tells us tidbits about the geology, history, and animals of the land. We’ve grown to know the narrator’s voice well, and we often walk through places using his tone and doing silly narrations of what we see – “Well, I see you’ve decided to take the unusual and pointless path to the left, where, if you’re lucky, you’ll see two human brothers walking side by side talking. But, if neither had lunch, you might even see them going head to head, each wanting to prove his alpha position in the pack.”
Speaking of hunger and going head to head, let’s talk tantrums. Sure, my kids are 5, 9, and 11, and those of you with babies and toddlers can’t wait for your kids to grow so the tantrums will end. But I hate to say it, they don’t. Or am I alone in this?
In fact, this week I realized how much these meltdowns are exactly the same as when they were babies. They are almost entirely about bodily needs – food and sleep.
I remember when I was a girl, and we would travel with my family. My mother was the type who could go all day eating only an ice cream cone, and could always do one more thing – one more hike, one more swim, one more viewpoint. I have a few picturesque memories of the view on our cross country trip, but I especially remember long car rides, swimming in hotel pools, and whining.
When I grew up I realized what I had been complaining about – HUNGER! Not only that, I realized that my father also had mini tantrums on these trips, for the same reason. He and I share low blood pressure. If we don’t eat we become cranky and weak. My mother, on the other hand, can go on empty no problem.
Cut to motherhood and me entering with this super-knowledge. I vowed never to reach that point. So I stock the car! Millions of snacks! Sandwiches! Variety! We eat three meals! and yet somehow I fall into the same trap. In fact, my kids get WAY more whiny and lethargic than I remember being.
Yes, I am asking a lot of them on this trip. We are doing a ton of moving around, sleeping in strange beds, walking, seeing, having no regular routine. But mostly it comes down to those basic bodily needs.
Here’s the scenario – it’s day two of Yellowstone. Tsuri and I are excited to see, hike, explore. The whining is incessant – “I don’t WANT to go on a hike!” “I want to be in the hotel!” “I don’t want to be on this trip!” “Why are we doing this!” “I hate GYPSY turn it off!”
We take a short walk hoping the fresh air will help. The eldest waits in the car. The other two drag along. We get back in the car and the whining continues. I offer snacks, sandwiches, games, all refused. Tsuri starts to get upset and barks at them. I get anxious and try to quell the tension. It is our usual family meltdown cycle.
And then I have the realization – They need a nap! Much like an infant, they need to reset. Anything we try to do before that happens won’t go well.
As a kid, back when safety regulations were limited to ‘don’t tie your kid to the roof,’ I often climbed into the back of the station wagon and slept for most of the ride. The tired whiny problem didn’t exist as much for my parents.
So I brought down the axe with my kids. I told them they had to sleep for 30 minutes.
And then I bribed them. If they did they would get extra screen time at the hotel.
We turned off Gypsy, turned on classical, and demanded silence. Two out of three slept. WIN!
We arrived at a trail and all came, no complaints. The two hours went by with singing, joking, photographing, and climbing.
Food and sleep. Just like infants.
And other minor adjustments – Drop eldest off at the hotel right before the last hike/viewpoint. Don’t do One More Thing. Let it go. And make sure dinner happens before the Grand Crash.
So if you’re looking at our pics, imagining that it is all geysers and waterfalls and no tantrums and frustration, I just needed to let you know –
Tantrums look the same, even with a beautiful view.
Next week you can expect to hear about a completely different experience. Staying in one place for a whole 9 days.
Thanks for coming along with me,
ps. we also went to Teton National Park which was possibly even more spectacular than Yellowstone. Adding some of those pics here. Both places inspired some songs which you can hear on my Instagram account (@familytravelintune.)