Days before we leave, it begins. Usually at bedtime. “Is tomorrow the day we’re going to Grandma’s? How many days till we get to that day?”
At four-years-old, Felix has developed enough of a sense of time to know how a week passes, even if he can’t remember the names of each day. Tell him that we’re going away in five days, or having people over for a pizza party in three days, and he’ll count them down in anticipation. Randomly — during lunch, or while riding his trike — he’ll pop out with “Two days till… !”
He becomes so focused on the future, he doesn’t want to experience the present. “I’m bored,” he’ll grumble. “I want to go visit Nana and Pop-Pop now.” He wakes up early, wondering if today is finally the day we get to leave. At night, he anticipates the fun to come so much that instead of settling into sleep, he lies there asking, “How long till morning time?”
Some of this eagerness belies his anxiety. He’ll list out the things he wants to do while we’re away, at first in a sweet way, but then, increasingly, repeating it like a mantra. “We’ll pick blueberries, and then swim, and have a picnic, and get ice cream at that good ice cream place…” Vacation means a disruption of the norm, and that can be a scary thing for a small child. They take pleasure, and feel a sense of control, around the usual.
These twin feelings, enthusiasm and also nervousness, can disrupt Felix so much that sometimes vacations don’t feel worth the trouble. He becomes tired, and tantrum-y, and prone to freak-outs. My wife and I have developed some tricks to help manage his energy. These techniques don’t eliminate all the emotional upset, but they certainly help. Click on to find out more…