Traveling Olympics

25 Apr

I never liked babysitting. Kids are very sticky. And loud. I couldn’t get them to do what I said, or go to bed. I don’t like kid games or playing existing games, but with kids. And on the rare occasion I could actually manage to make my charges sleep, I would invariably find their parents didn’t stock good snacks.  I wanted to want to be a mother one day, but I was afraid I would never actually want children. I told my own mother of my fears, and she replied with a question.

“Do you like the Olympics?”

I nodded. I watch the whole two weeks of it end to end. Kayaking, fencing, curling, the works.

“Then you will like having children.”

Her explanation, as I recall it, was that the ability to delight in another person’s successes, empathize with their failures, and have patience with the boring bits were all important components of parenting. She also told me she didn’t much like anyone ELSE’S children, but she very much liked her own. She gave me hope.

So I went ahead and had a couple of children, trusting that the experience of parenting would be enough unlike the experience of babysitting to work for me. Come to find out, parenting not only sometimes feels like babysitting, it’s babysitting from which I have no emotional detachment. I actually care about being GOOD at it. And where the hell is my five bucks an hour? And who stocks the snacks around here? Trail mix is bullshit.

So my kids are sticky and loud, and they insist on me playing games of their own invention, and they have sleeping issues, and never do these problems become more evident and crushing than when we are traveling together. But here is where the Olympics factor comes into play: I just don’t enjoy traveling anymore unless they are with me.

I haven’t had many kid-free travel opportunities in the last nine years, and it’s not that I haven’t relished the ones I’ve begged, borrowed, and stolen the time to take, but the element consistently missing from these adult fun times is… My kids. More specifically, their unique perspective on things. Watching them experience something is often more fun than experiencing it myself. Their reactions are the MSG that add umami to travel.

I can think of countless examples, but here are a few. We rented a house on the coast of Oregon a couple of summers ago. The scenery was incredible, as was the deep silence of the windswept beach. If Husband and I had gone alone we would have been more relaxed, slept more, read more books, and never had to argue over who would walk a kid the 3 blocks back to the beach house to poop.

But because our kids were there, I got to watch the horror and awe and fascination that washed over my daughter’s face when we found this starfish in a tidal pool on the beach.

I am attracted and repelled!

I am attracted and repelled!

We rented these dune buggies and pedaled them until our legs gave out.

Look Ma, no hands!

Look Ma, no hands!

Husband spent a day making an insanely creative music video on his iPhone starring the kids (which I can’t post because of copyright issues with the song.) (Bonus shot of extreme ice cream treat happiness.)

Mmmmm corn syrup.

Mmmmm corn syrup.

Or the time the kids and I went to Hawaii as stowaways on a work trip of Husband’s. If we had gone alone as a couple we wouldn’t have had to endure 11 hours of flying with 2 very impatient small people who actually eventually GOT BORED of watching things on the iPad, and no one would have woken me up at 4 am the first day because of jet lag.

But I also wouldn’t have explored these tidal pools on my own.

Ocean-front living.

Ocean-front living.

And no way would I ever have gotten this close to someone feeding an eagle ray.

Like a very wet, fishy dog.

Like a very wet, fishy dog.

We just got back from a week in New York City for the kids’ Spring Break from school. We did not eat at Le Cirque or see a Broadway show or go out and try to recreate La Vie Boheme from RENT. But you have not lived until you’ve taken a train-obsessed 6 year old for his first subway ride.

Last train to Awesomeville.

Last train to Awesomeville.

Or spent four hours exploring The Met with an 8 year old who loved From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

Look Mummy, I'm a mummy!

Look Mummy, I’m a mummy!

This is not to imply that all the together-time of traveling doesn’t back up on us, and that I didn’t, for example, spend two solid days after the NYC trip wishing I was a hermit living alone in a cave on a remote mountaintop, but. Kids: Can’t travel without ’em, can’t travel with ’em, can’t babysit ’em, pass me that trail mix.

10 Responses to “Traveling Olympics”

  1. BananaWheels April 25, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    So true. We traveled last week too and I had the exact same reaction about a few of the activities we did. I would never have gone to the exotic petting zoo on my own, nor would I have been able to see the thrill on my daughter’s face when a bison licked her on the head. 😉 It’s the little things.

    • amomynous2 April 25, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

      It IS the little things–and sometimes the little things are very little indeed. Although a bison’s tongue is probably pretty big? Wow. Thank you so much for reading!

  2. Baddest Mother Ever April 25, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    Thank you thank you thank you. I needed to read this today. Leaving town tomorrow with 3 kids, one husband and crap I just remembered I haven’t called about boarding the dog. But it’s all so my kids can run on the beach for the weekend and see some amazing sidewalk chalk art in a cool city they’ve never seen. I can do it…

    • amomynous2 April 25, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

      You can do it! It will probably even be fun… At least some of the time! Travel safely, and thanks for reading. And good luck with the pooch placement! 🙂

  3. Naptimewriting April 27, 2013 at 6:15 am #

    OY, traveling with kids. Someone once said, “that’s not vacation; it’s relocation.”
    Truth.

    Traveling with kids, as you point out, is so amazing and lovely and so freaking awful. You see and explore things you would have walked right by had you been alone.

    But could we maybe get some extra sleep and a bit less fighting on trips? Sheesh.

  4. Mags May 18, 2013 at 3:08 am #

    Non sequitor: it looks like you went to Manzanita, a place I have been going for 35 years, including 18 years with children. now they bike all over town on their own (true for 3 years) wander off to the beach on their own and i hope for the best and try not to think about predators. I also join them and make dams in the “river” on the beach, dig endless holes, cook with many blackberries ripe and unripe. not the same beach as it is when i go on my own…….

    • amomynous2 May 18, 2013 at 3:10 am #

      I love it! Yes, we went a couple of summers ago, and are going back this July! A little random as we’re East Coasters, but it’s so beautiful there, it’s drawn us back. Thanks so much for sharing your memories, and for reading!

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