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traveling with kids

This Is What Happened When My 3-Year-Old Got Jet Lag

airplane

Jetlag. Turns out that my youngest kid gets sustained and very real jet lag. And that was never more clear than at 4:10 a.m. yesterday morning.

We’d just returned from London. It had been the smoothest long-distance trip we’d taken so far. The kids slept on the flight out there! Entertained themselves on the way back! I read! Watched a movie! And didn’t even have to spend $60 and buy endless packages of scotch tape (though pro tip: scotch tape is MAGIC on a plane ride) to make it happen. Could it be that we didn’t only see the light at the end of the tunnel, we were being bathed in it?

Don’t get me wrong: All of these things are amazing, as is the ability to take a long trip with three kids. That’s a tremendous privilege, one that I am deeply aware of. I got my first passport when I was 17, to attend Ramah Seminar in Israel. By the time she was 2, my oldest daughter had been to four continents. We know how very lucky we are to be able to do this with our kids, and we want them to know how lucky they are as well.

Gratitude and appreciation are hugely important, and play a large role in all our lives. That’s a good thing. But gratitude and appreciation, even in abundance, don’t actually make flying with small children fun. For anyone on the flight. But it’s getting much, much easier.

We’ve learned over time to expect some time-adjustment during the first night on a trip, and we don’t panic when one of them is up from midnight to 2 a.m. That’s just the body figuring it all out. After the first night, it’s usually been pretty smooth sailing in terms of timing. There might be some late nights, or some early ones, but bodies are amazing things that can, and do, figure it out.

But it wasn’t so straightforward with our youngest. He’s 3; this was his first big trip since he started sleeping through the night. Cue the 12-2 a.m. pajama party, and the hours of a teenager. For the entire trip. No big deal; it was actually rather lovely having him sleep until 9 a.m., and we used the long evenings to spend extra time with the extended family that we were visiting. It was a slog to the finish line some nights, and there were some random car and tube naps at off hours, but overall, it was just fine.

And it was just fine at 4:10 a.m. yesterday. It was just really, really early. And he was legit awake. Awake enough to play with his cars for a while, and awake enough to launch into a house-waking, ear splitting tantrum. But we really, really wanted the other kids to sleep just a bit past 4:30 a.m., maybe even making it to sunrise. Luckily, there is one thing absolutely guaranteed to end a tantrum with this dude. In the midst of the screaming, I asked him if he wanted to cook something. Lip quivering, mouth open to wail a loud NO!, he processed my question and said (in a still-angry voice, just in case I thought it was all over): yes.

So at 4:30 a.m., we started to cook. And bake. We made chocolate chip cookies, and granola, and sweet potato bread, which was good because those last two are our breakfast staples, which we needed to replenish after the trip, and they were waiting when the others woke up. We ate the bread and the granola, and (hell, we’d basically had a full morning already) finished it with the cookies. And went off to camp and daycare.

This morning was a little better, with a 5:30 wake up. And some more cars, and another—much shorter—tantrum. And from-scratch brownies, still warm when we brought them to school to give out (I may become very popular if this jet lag doesn’t end), and a big pot of potato leek soup. (We’ve got almost three weeks of CSA veggies to use up, though I wisely opted for lots of onions and carrots and potatoes and beets that will last a while.)

I’m very much hoping that tomorrow will be even later still, perhaps only enough time for challah dough and breakfast smoothies. But even if not, we’ve got a pantry and fridge full of gorgeous vegetables, and not only is Shabbat coming, but so is Rosh Hashanah. And I’ve already got my soup made.


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