by Emillie Parrish
Source: Island Parent Magazine
Originally Published: September/October 2014
It is one of those moments when I am suddenly reminded that parenting has a lot in common with being the ring leader of a circus. We are on a bus packed with morning commuters, and my son is swinging himself around a pole, taking up far more than his fair share of space. Meanwhile my daughter is shrieking from the stroller. She wants to look out the window, but I don’t dare pick her up. There are too many bags hanging off the back of the stroller and I need her weight to keep everything balanced.
The commuters, smartly dressed in their matching khaki and black outfits, watch us through sideways glances. I hope that they are at least entertained by the spectacle. I glance over at my husband who is also taking up more than his share of space on that crowded bus. He is wearing a giant backpack, and is desperately trying to keep his balance while holding onto two more suitcases. My eyes ask him, “how much further?” But he is as clueless as I am.
I remember a time when travel was relaxing. When I was free to follow my every whim, and was only encumbered by a small bag that was just large enough to hold everything I needed. I start to wonder what we were thinking to embark on such a trip with two young children. My mother called us “brave” when we told her of our plans, but at that moment I can’t help feeling that “crazy” would have been a more apt description.
An older woman leans forward and pats my daughter gently on the cheek talking to her sofly in Italian. I only recognize the words “ciao” and “bella.” But it is enough to turn my 13-month-old’s fussing into happy chirps. It’s at a time like this that it doesn’t matter how crazy we are, we wouldn’t miss this for the world.
Travel had always defined my husband’s and my relationship, and having children couldn’t stifle the urge. We needed to explore new places, taste new foods and meet new people. Though I have to admit that our children have caused us to change the way we travel, especially since there is truth in the idiom “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Both of our children have an energetic spirit which keeps us busy. It also means that we have developed an arsenal of tricks to keep everyone interested in travelling.
Here are some things that we do to help our children get the most out of their travelling.
Before you go:
• Read age-appropriate books about the places you’ll be travelling to. I like the picture books by Miroslav Sasek because they can be adapted for readers of any age. You can also find age-appropriate books from the library.
• Introduce your child to new foods and discuss potential cultural differences.
• Practice eating out. We play the “what can you do in a restaurant game” to remind my five-year-old that he has to stay seated in his chair, use his cutlery and talk in a quiet voice.
On the trip:
• Have your children keep a scrapbook or diary of the trip, written or pictographic, to keep them engaged with the sightseeing.
• Alternatively you could have your children take photos of a toy visiting the various sights—a version of the traveling gnome in the movie "Amelie".
• Give your child spending money for each location so that they can choose their own souvenirs.
• Involve your child in planning the day. Give them choices about what you’re going to see and do.
• Don’t over schedule yourselves. Only expect to do one or two things a day.
• Take breaks in playgrounds or parks whenever possible.
• Make naps a priority, and try to keep to your child’s usual nap schedule as much as possible.
• Always carry snacks with you. The best snacks are things like boxes of raisins that can keep small children occupied for a while.
Before planning any holiday, it’s important to consider what you want from the trip. If your goal is to have a relaxing break from your every day, then you should consider going to a kid-focused resort or campground. These places will have amenities for children; some will even offer day camps and other activities to keep children entertained.
However, don’t be afraid to seek a bit of adventure. Though traveling with children does take a lot of patience and planning, it also offers more rewards. Language barriers don’t exist in a playground, or in a baby’s smile, so you may find yourself immersed in a cultural experience that goes beyond museums and market stalls.
Emillie Parrish loves having adventures with her two busy children. She lives in Victoria and is the author of the food based blog web link
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