While traveling to the exotic Brazilian jungle may seem glamorous, the journey was not always perfect. Not only was getting there painfully long, requiring long flights, layovers, uncomfortable truck and boat rides, but my patience and parenting skills were tested rather brutally.
The Girl in the Green Bandana
During the 3 hour bumpy, dusty, ride from Southwild Pantanal Lodge to Port de Jofre, I wore a green bandana to keep my hair out of my face. I have had this bandana since the late 1990’s. It has been with me to Africa, the Yukon, Europe, Nicaragua, backpacking in the Pacific Northwest, and many other places. Well, the wind was blowing so hard, that at some point during the ride, my bandana slipped out of my head. By the time I realized this, I knew the bandana was gone. I felt angry and sad. I was mad at myself for not being more careful. I was sad because I felt losing the bandana marked the end of an era. I knew I could easily replace the bandanda with $2. But I did feel as if I had lost a childhood toy. This bandana had been all over the world with me. I was sad to part with it. The story has a happy ending though! When we got to Port de Jofre, my green bandana was on top of the luggage headed to the Flotel. One of the porters had found it wedged on the floor of the truck! I was so happy that my bandana was not lost after all. And I learned a valuable lesson in taking better care of my belongings. But I also realized that while losing the bandana would have been a sad event, I would not have lost the memories of all the trips where that cheap piece of cloth had been my companion. Once again, I was humbled by the idea that material possessions are meaningless. What matters are the things that you cannot replace: memories, love, friends, and family.
Parenting While Traveling
There is no doubt that traveling is stressful. This is magnified when you are traveling on a long journey to a harsh environment such as the Pantanal. Don’t get me wrong! I feel so blessed to have these opportunities. But that doesn’t lessen the anxiety level that a trip like this can induce, especially when traveling with children. Kara and Tristan were both troupers during the trip.
But my patience with them was tested because they needed constant reminders to put on bug spray, sunscreen, bring their rain gear, and keep the doors of our rooms closed. Back in Texas, I had been the harsh disciplinarian, but as Chris likes to point out, I have abandoned that role since moving to Costa Rica. Well, I once again had to adopt the tougher parenting style in the Pantanal. Kara was shocked when I yelled and threatened those first few days when they were just not listening. She asked why I was so “grumpy”.
Why had I reverted to my previous brand of tough discipline and parenting? The answer finally hit me the night that once again Kara did not close the door to our room and we were invaded by wasps. Unfortunately, one of them stung her. I was then able to explain to her the sudden change in my parenting style: If they dont listen to my rules about bug spray, sunscreen, keeping doors closed, wearing appropriate clothing, the consequences have a serious impact on their safety. Back in Monteverde, the consequences for disobedience are rather mild (ants in their sandwich containers if they forget to wash them after school). On this trip, the consequences were much more serious (second degree sunburns, getting lost at the airport, horrible insect bites, heat stroke, hypothermia). After we were able to discuss this, and with the wasp making a good case for my rules…, the kids were better about listening to me and I did not have to resort to threats and screams…as much. Children want to follow the rules, but the smart ones like my kids need to have a well-explained rationale also. Unfortunately, sometimes they have to suffer the consequences of not following the rules before it sinks in. And sometimes, as parents, we need our children to call us out on our harsh behavior.
Once we came back home to Monteverde, my discipline style once again reverted to the more patient and laid-back approach. By no means am I saying that I do not discipline my children in Costa Rica! I most certainly do! But I have a more loving approach when they make mistakes and am more inclined to let them learn from their errors. I use more positive reinforcement and less punishment. I talk to the kids instead of yelling at them. We come up with solutions together instead of me dictating my expectations. Part of the secret to parenting is to learn to pick your battles and to accept that your parenting approach will change depending on the situation and the child. For example, I parented Kara and Tristan very differently because their personalities were total opposite, but in the end, they both ended up being great kids. (What can I say, though? I am their mom!).
“Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”― Rumi
What do you think of the “fluid” approach to parenting? Does your method change according to the situation? Let me know in the comments below.