What does it say about me that up until now, for every trip, I have made myself insane completing every last detail of every bit of the packing? As in, I charge their Nintendos. I pack their carry-ons. I make sure each kid has just the right workbook or crayons, or every member of the mini SuperWhy team. I put carefully distributed snacks in them. I pack their clothes, matched, clean, suitable. Etc. I micro-manage the whole process, and it takes hours and is very, very stressful, especially the part where I decide that Lily will not be happy unless her doll has both of the pink ugg-like boots, and I can only find one.
Up until now.
I don’t know if it’s another Parenting on Track moment, or jus that I got fed up, but this time was different. Sam wanted to pack as long ago as Monday before we left (on Friday) and instead of making him wait for me, or going up and starting, I let him. He wanted to pack his and Wyatt’s clothes in the same suitcase. I took a deep breath, told him to bring one pair of pjs each and four complete days worth of clothes, including socks and underwear. And when he brought down a packed and zipped suitcase, I never even opened it.
Lily laid out clothes for her and for Rory. (Wyatt helped Sam, Rory had no interest.) I added a long-sleeved shirt each, and lifted it all into the suitcase with scarcely a second glance. (She even rolled each piece, a trick we showed her on a different trip.)
For Sam and Wyatt, the result was great–they even brought matching shirts, which Wyatt loves and Sam is really nice about. Rory and Lily fared a little less well. Lily, in her attempt to match them, brought denim skirts that don’t fit that well, and Rory would much have preferred leggings. But they’re clothed.
It was easier to do this, of course, because we’re at my mom’s. I don’t much care how they’re dressed, and there’s laundry. But it was so much easier–I’ll never go back. I did the same with their carry-ons. They packed them, I never touched them (other than to confirm that the Nintendos were in there, I’m not going on a 4 hour flight with four kids and only three Nintendo DS’s.). They never use half the stuff I put in them anyway. Again, we did pretty well. If I’d known there was seriously no food on the flight, I’d have insisted they chose chips instead of candy for their “one thing” at the airport store, but we survived. I packed, seriously, the swim suits (because the fact that we got to go swimming was a surprise) and my bag. It was the most relaxing packing/trip I’ve taken in, oh, nine years.
Have I been doing it wrong for nearly a decade? Oh, probably. Sam, at least, could have been packing his own bag for a long time. On a different trip, I might need to exert a little more control, but I don’t think I’m ever going back to the full-service packing role. Eventually, there will be lessons of forgetting learned (Rory may already have learned that if she wants to wear what she wants to wear and not what Lily wants for her, she’d better step up), but what better time? I do feel a twinge, as the girls dart through the American Girl doll store in their two-tight tee-shirts and mismatched pants when every other little girl is dressed up to the hilt ( AG stores in the south, even more than most, tend to have a pageant-y feel). I like dressing them up. I want them to look cute. But I like not packing for them even more.
Just this year I started to shift the packing responsibility to my children. The work involved in packing for 5 of us meant that on every single trip after arriving at a hotel, grandma’s, wherever, I would get an indignant “ummm, where is my underwear?” or “you forgot to pack socks for me!”
I got so fed up with the whole packing thing that I handed it all over to the kids (12,8,4) They all do great now, but it took a few misses to get there. For our first trip to grandmas, my 8 year old daughter packed 3 pairs of shoes, a bathrobe, and some books. That was it. I got to be the one to say “ummm, where is your underwear?”