Having spent the past week dealing with jet lag in small children, with my mind still fuzzy and my eyes still bleary from lack of sleep and too many espressos, I only have one thing to talk about this week: recovering from a cross-time-zone trip.
Every expat you ask has some good tip about getting over jet lag — or how to not get it all! “Don’t go to bed until your regular bed time in your new time zone”. Who manages that? “Just take a short nap when you get there!” I always fall into a deep sleep and feel like I’m re-entering the atmosphere after some Quantum Leap-like excursion when I do that. Or on this end I’ve inevitably had too much of that middle-of-the-night, but it is actually morning in Germany coffee that they bring around and can’t go to sleep at all. “Take melatonin!” — I admit I have never tried that one. I find that I can survive jet lag if it’s just me, but when there are babies involved, the game changes.
Last time I flew back to Detroit I only had Olivia and the big girls were here in Germany. She was 8 months old then and slept several times a day, so jet lag wasn’t so much of an issue. This time I flew home with two little ones under two (Miss O is just barely under two, which is why we went this month instead of later). Unfortunately, our son is 8 months old, which means he was really too big for the cardboard box they call a bassinet. Olivia, being Olivia, just wanted to walk around and talk to everyone within range. The nice flight attendant I chatted up (thanks, Dee) brought her little treats from business class, but these seemed to only make her wilder for a while. She did finally settle and sleep for a bit on the way to the US. Noah was actually fine most of the way there and back.
The problem was, we got in at 7pm German time, which is their bedtime, but it was bright and sunny and suddenly we were in a new place and Oma and Opa were there. I was sure Olivia would crash in the car on the way to my parents’. Nope: she spent the hour plus car ride saying “Hi Opa” from the backseat and then “BIG truck, car, house, building”! We got her to sleep at 5pm and she was up and ready to roll at 2:30 am that night. So we took turns trying to convince her to go back to sleep. “Look, it’s night time outside! Look, everyone else is sleeping!” Her response “No HEIA! Schlafsack ausziehen. Eating!”
The next night/morning was slightly better. Only 4am! Then she started asking for “si-la-los” (cereal). We all got up and had breakfast at 5. Since I was actually relatively awake as well, I survived. But you sleep with one ear open for children yelling and keep waking up just hoping it was some civilized hour, like 5am!
After three days we made it from 7pm until 6am. No problem! Five days later we flew back to Germany. Guess what time we finally got Miss O to bed? 1:30 am. Oh yes. Now for those of you thinking, hey, that’s not too bad, just sleep in in the morning! Sure it is. Olivia slept in: even Noah slept in until we woke him at 11am. Unfortunately for us, the big girls still had to get up for school. Once again we drag ourselves out of bed to make the Pausenbrot and make sure everyone gets out the door. You can’t get through this process without a strong coffee. And so the cycle begins again.
Now we have been home for 6 days. I hope beyond hope that we have made it past the worst of it. They did get up at the normal time this morning, which is 6am. Still, nobody seems to want to go to bed. Olivia says to me “No screaming. Heia machen! Alles gut.” But it still takes about 10 tries to get her to sleep finally. I’m crossing my fingers for tomorrow night and thinking it will be a long time before I attempt that trip again during the school year.