Travel news seems to happen in batches and there have been batches and batches of families getting travel news lately (There are also lots and lots of families just entering the courts who will soon receive travel news). To all of you, congratulations!! And to all of you preparing to travel in the coming days, weeks and months, my gift to you is a few suggestions for your friends and family.
Dear friends and family of those traveling:
It's awesome that you're planning to be there for the family when they get home. Whether you're meeting them at the airport, meeting them when they arrive at home, or planning to see them in the first few days or even weeks after they return home, here are some things to consider:
First of all, it's not about you.
Yes, I'm sure you're very excited to see your new niece/nephew/grandson/granddaughter/cousin/friend, but realize you will have a lifetime to shower this new family member/friend with affection.
For now, it's all about that baby boy or girl that has just been through one of the most (probably the most) terrifying experiences of his or her life so far. Every sound that little baby hears is new. Except for the parents that little baby came home with, there are no familiar faces (and the parents have only been familiar in the last 3 or so days), no familiar smells and probably very few familiar tastes or toys. That little baby has just endured a ten-hour plus plane flight - something few adults do well. Your face is new; your smell is new and, unless you happen to speak Mandarin, your sounds are new. If you do happen to speak Mandarin, and the parents don't, feel free to speak it, but remember it's not about you. It's about the baby first and the parents second. You come somewhere after that in order of importance.
While the baby will undoubtedly be irresistible, remember that the thing he or she needs most at the moment is comfort and that comfort is best given by the people he or she knows best: the parents. What the parents need most is your help and support so that they can focus on the baby. Although the child isn't a newborn, this family is like any family welcoming a new child: things are crazy and everyone has huge adjustments to make.
What can you do to be most helpful? Bring food!! Lots and lots of food. Bring enough food for the entire family to eat when they arrive home (probably exhausted and just in time to eat and go to bed) and when they wake up the next morning and to sustain them for the next week in case they are unable to leave the house. This gesture will be appreciated far more than you know.
If you'd like to do something else that will be appreciated beyond measure, insist on taking a number of photos of the new family together. Chances are they haven't yet had a nice family photo taken of them and this is the first time they are all at home together, so take some pictures (and take lots of them, because after a long flight there is a good chance there will be a few duds in there!).
Still want to do more? Make sure the house is clean, plants are watered, cars are full of gas, clothes are washed...anything you can think of that will free the family up to spend time helping the baby adjust. Oh yes, and of course books, clothes and toys for baby are always appreciated, too.
If you're not planning to visit right away, but find yourself visiting anytime in the first few months, the same rules apply:
Bring food! Lots and lots of food! We found it so incredibly helpful (even months later) when we received meals that would last for multiple days and required no effort on our part. Offer to take pictures! Help with household chores or errands (assuming the couple is ok with that).
Here is a very special and very important thing you can do on the 3rd week after the family arrives home: Plan a 2-3 hour get-away with the new Mommy. Insist that the new Mommy accompany you to a movie or to a mall or to a spa or to a knitting group or on a hike, but insist that she get out of the house and away from the baby. Everyone will be better off for this brief time. Trust me. If the new Mommy is like me, she hasn't had any time away from baby since they met (other than during naps, but that doesn't fully count) and she really, really needs it whether she likes to admit it or not. It's also a nice time for Daddy to spend with baby. Everyone will come back refreshed and better for these few precious hours.
So there you have it - lots of ideas for how to show your love and they're all pretty easy.
Congratulations to all of you and happy, happy homecomings!