Monday, April 13, 2015

Why I travel with kids


 Majd at the citadel in Cairo.

Miriam at the BYU Jerusalem Center, overlooking Dome of the Rock.

OK, so I don't have a cool picture for Sterling yet, so he gets With Spigot in Sri Lanka. For now.

I reserve the right to write a more thorough post on this topic someday. This post is also a postscript to the non-post of The worst age to travel with kids.

So if Sterling is so hard to travel with, why do we take him? Why do we travel with our kids? Not counting longer stays/periods of living in Jordan, Egypt, and Germany, where leaving our kids behind was not even an option, our children have come with us to Austria, Palestine, Puerto Rico, Syria, Turkey, Qatar, Oman, Romania, the UK, and, most recently, Sri Lanka.

We travel with our kids because they're part of our family. If I am enjoying an amazing vista from the top of a Crusader castle turret, I want to be enjoying it with my family (while maintaining a death grip on the hand of the two-year-old). I want to perform with them on the stage of a ruined Roman amphitheater, and push my kids on a zipline in Salzburg. I want to go to Topkapi Palace with my daughter and pretend we're members of the Sultan's household, and choose a room for our bedroom and pick out the jewels we would wear.

There is so much of the world, of our everyday surroundings, that we miss when we don't have a child with us to point it out to. And when we explain cultural differences or historical aspects of a foreign country to our children, admit it: we're explaining it to ourselves a little bit, too.

We travel with our kids to show them that there is a world out there bigger than them. That there are people who live differently than them - so, so differently - and call it normal. We want to show them that the world doesn't run on their schedule, and neither does our family, at least not all the time. Sometimes you have to eat stuff you don't want to, and wake up too early for your tastes, and be hot and wet in the rain or stand in the cold a little too long.

Traveling with kids builds character - theirs and ours.

Three subpoints:

1. We also enjoy traveling with our kids because of the doors it opens for us as the parents. Children can often be the great equalizer when traveling abroad - everyone loves a cute baby. Just as we like to show our children how other people live, at the same time, we are walking anthropological exhibits for others.

2. But what if they're too young to remember? Then isn't the trip wasted on them? Well, sure. But children start to remember things earlier than you'd think. Miriam has vivid memories of Middlebury from age almost-3. Same with Magdalena in Turkey. And even if they don't remember specific sights and sounds (though really, you'd be surprised), they will remember - or at least retain the effects of - the feelings they felt and the time they spent with Mom and Dad.

3. I have to admit that another part of why we take our kids is because as difficult as it is to have them with us, it's no piece of cake to leave them behind, either. We don't live close to family (to say the least), so we can't just pop our kids over to Grandma's house for a week. It is actually more practical to just bring the kids with us. Really.

All of the above is my opinion. I am fully aware that there are awesome people out there who travel well without their kids. I envy them their in-flight book and quiet nights of sleep. I just wanted to present the side of those of us who choose to travel with our kids, even though sometimes it really sucks.

Like at age 18 months for example: too young to appreciate a screen, even in those moments you really need them to; too old to sit quietly in mama's lap. Too young to understand "wait a minute,"; too old to sleep anytime, anywhere, oblivious to the distractions around them. Plus, at 18 months, toddlers seem to lose any and all sense of self-preservation. We were with Sterling admiring the elephants bathing in the river outside our hotel in Pinnawala. There was a significant drop-off from the lawn area and while Jeremy was holding his hand, Sterling tried to disengage and step off of it. That's why this stage is called the Keep Sterling Alive stage. And the slightly more difficult variation of that game was the Keep Sterling Alive in Sri Lanka stage.

7 comments:

Liz Johnson said...

You are seriously my inspiration for all of these things. I wish you could ask Chris how many times I've said "But remember how Bridget & Jeremy took their kids to Sri Lanka?!" in the last week, because it HAS to be more than 10 times. We're "discussing" whether we should try to make some stops on the biennial drive to Utah this summer (I'm arguing for YES, let's take the kids to see cool places, and he's arguing for NO, it will take forever and prolong the agony of the drive) (but the drive is only agony if we don't do fun stuff!) (I'm pretty sure you're on my side on this one, and so I've been telling him that you are, and that you guys saw elephants, so your vote counts).

I admit that my one huge regret about my upcoming Africa trip is that my kids can't come with me. Obviously this just means that I need to plan another Africa trip so that they CAN come with me at some point. I should also start working for an airline or something so that we can get the extra $$ and some flight benefits.

Jenn Ridgeway said...

Thank you, Bridget! Had to share this on Facebook to help explain, for instance, why we once took an 18-month old to Pompeii...

Crys said...

I like traveling with kids. I agree they open lots of doors and I want my kids to know their are awesome places outside the us. That being said can I reserve the right to someday not travel with kids occasionally? It feels like the keep Lina alive stage is lasting longer then it should.

Susanne said...

Wonderful post! I enjoyed so much about it. Although I don't have any children, I have kept both of my nephews quite a bit, and I do enjoy seeing life through their eyes - even every day life here in North Carolina.

I laughed out loud when I got to Sterling's picture With Spigot in Sri Lanka. That's great!

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Love this post!

Nancy said...

I could not agree more. It can totally stink at times (that one time Rachel got sick in an art museum in Israel comes to mind...or the time she stayed awake from UTAH TO CAIRO) but it certainly builds character and flexibility for parents and children. And if you start when they're young (like anything) you're more likely to continue when they're older (as you've done) so they will eventually remember some trips.

Nancy said...

PS. I almost died this spring break with the whole "not allowed to drive father than two hours away/Andrew feverishly trying to finish his prospectus." We didn't do anything...(outside of the city).

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