Whenever we have a big new experience coming up, I like to talk it over with Marko. I remember being in something of a fog in some of my childhood experiences just because SO MANY new things were happening and I had no idea what anything was called. I now know that's partly because I'm highly sensitive, but I'm sure it can't hurt to prepare any child for a new experience.
We'll be flying to Washington State to see my family for the first time in two years. (They are visiting from Korea, and we'll all get together at my grandma's house.) John can't come so it's just me and the two kids. I am either brave or stupid. But I figured putting this trip off would only make it more difficult ... at least Marko is still in diapers (imagine having to run to the tiny bathroom every hour!) and Michael is still very much a lap baby.
Here are some excerpts, as best I remember them, from my conversations about it with Marko.
Me: Would you like to go on an airplane?
Me: Well, we're going to! We're going to visit Great-Grandma.
Me: First, we'll get up early in the morning. Then, we'll drive to the airport. Then we'll get out of the car and go inside. (He's been to the airport before to drop off Daddy, but we don't usually go inside.) You will ride in your stroller. Michael will be in the wrap. We will take our bags to the people at the airport, and they will put them in the plane for us. Then we will go where there are some chairs, and wait for awhile for our plane to be ready. Then it will be there, and we will get on it!
Me: And so will all the other people.
Marko (dissolving into tears): Nooooooo.... no other people .... just Mama and Marko and Michael in the plane.
Me: When we're on the airplane, there will be seats just for us! We will sit in them. You won't have to sit in a carseat, you will get your own seatbelt. You will have new toys to play with.
Me: And you will have a snack to eat! What would you like to bring to eat on the plane?
Me: That's a great idea. We will bring some fishy crackers. Then the plane will take off -- up, up, up -- high into the sky -- where the clouds are.
Marko: No. You don't want to go where the clouds are. The plane will take us to the library. We will check out books.
Me: How about to Great Grandma's?
Me: When we're on the plane, it will land on the ground. We will get out and be in a different airport. You will get back in your stroller and we will go to where our bags are. Uncle David will be there and will help us with our bags.
Me: Are you excited to see Great Grandma?
Me: And Grandpa?
Me: And Grandma?
Me: And Uncle Joseph? And Uncle John Paul? And Auntie Juliana? And Uncle Charles?
Me: And Uncle David?
Me: Maybe we will swim in the pool while we are there.
Marko: Nooooooooo! (Since our recent trip to the beach, he's been terrified of water.)
Me: Or maybe we will pick blueberries.
Marko: Yes. We will walk outside, and pick blueberries, and eat them! (He repeats this sentence for the rest of the day, leaving me mortally afraid that the blueberries won't be ripe and I'll have set him up for disappointment.)
We leave early in the morning, and I realize there's one thing I never mentioned. He probably thinks we're going home the same day. He's never slept away from home in his memory. Miiiiight be a good thing to mention before he's exhausted and overstimulated and begs for home the way he does when we're out in the evening. I think as soon as we get to my grandma's, I'll take him to wherever we'll be sleeping and introduce him to his new bed. Then he'll know where to go if he gets tired or upset. (Yes, he does seek out his bed when he's really worn out. Or just to fling himself on dramatically. I'm thinking "dramatically throwing oneself on one's bed" is actually a universal human instinct. We all do it when we're really upset, or have done it when we were younger at least. Are we seeking safety and security, or do we just know deep down that we're tired?)
You can see from this that there are a lot of things Marko is scared of. I've always labeled him as "extroverted" and "fearless," but on the other hand he is very cautious about new things. I have always just assumed this was normal behavior ... I mean, it would be silly to smile or wave at someone you don't know, or to jump into the ocean when you've never been there. Marko is usually quite different in public than in private -- quieter and more well-behaved (thank goodness). These are all things he has in common with me. I talk a mile a minute pretty much always, but I take awhile to scope out new situations and I do get overstimulated with a lot of them. (Flying has always been the WORST. It's not the planes, I like those. But airports are so CROWDED!) I wonder if Marko has inherited my temperament, or whether he has learned these behaviors from me. I know kids do pick up on nervousness a good deal more than you'd think. I know he couldn't possibly have been such an early talker if I hadn't been nattering his ear off since he came out of the womb.
Anyway, wish us luck. I'll let you know how it goes. If I arrive at my grandma's house with both kids intact, I'll think I've done well.