Do you know what I love about the word prodigy? That it can mean both marvelous and monstrous. I find traveling with children to be both of these things.
There is a distinct peace that comes from three children in the back seat of a Subaru, just enough room for the proper car seats and straps, each with a book or toy playing quietly. This of course is witnessed from the rear view mirror while you are driving, I often times hold my breath in this moment terrified that if I exhale and the air pressure of the vehicle changes that all hell will break loose. Which is inevitably what happens when one child realize his or her brother or sisters toy is far superior to what they are playing with and the yelling begins.
However when this contained chaos in a metal moving box is over, is it is contrasted to the squeals of joy and exaltation upon poring out of the vehicle and getting to the destination. The joy of seeing a grandparent ( or Yaya, G-Ma, Papa, Grampy, Grammy G, or Abuela as is the case in our family), of getting into a tangled mess with cousins, of getting caught up in the arms of a godparent. It’s in these moments I realize that these children are not just gifts to me, but to everyone who knows them. That every frustrating moment I spend in trying to create conscious and caring humans being is well spent, because every interaction they have with every person they meet is a clear indication of that effort.
of course there are other joys that come with new experiences in new places with kids. It’s the completely overwhelming glee of hotel staircases and long hallways paired with the unhinged imagines of a bellhop cart. That of course is countered to trying to keep your crying children quiet so that the other respectable patrons at an establishment can at least sleep.There is the awe and wonder of window shopping in a small mountain village town, the beautiful things that hands can create paired with the unadulterated appreciation of a child’s eyes. The flipside of that being an uncontrollable meltdown at the refusal to buy whatever toy, postcard, piece of art, or shoe wax that a child is demanding. There’s the witness of new flowers, or trees, or plants, or even a street vendor with hot dog. Then comes the time consuming process of explaining whatever any one of these things is and the litany of follow up questions that comes from that.
But I think more than anything the joy of traveling with children comes from seeing your children through other peoples eyes. When you are in a constant struggle of preparing food, cleaning messes, changing diapers, telling people they can’t pee in cupboards, Untangling a child’s finger from their own hair, saving a cat from being crushed by a very large toddler, etc., it’s easy to lose sight of the people behind these multitude of infractions to human decency.
Being caught up in the moment I could go a whole day without stopping to look into the blue-eyed beauty’s that are my two daughters. I could overlook what is clearly somebody uncomfortable in a tense situation, I may even forget that the youngest won’t use a sippy cup and be privy to her wrath. But when dining out at a restaurant and a waitress turns the lights on over stage so my children can sing and dance, or a park ranger stops to explain about local flora and fauna to my children, or a cashier at a supermarket comments on the composed nature of my little people I am able to see them in a different light. Perhaps a light that better honors who they are as individuals because they are freed from the stigmas and norms that we all get caught up into in our own homes.
So take a risk, get in the car, and go for a trip. Take the good with the bad and for the most part, it will be worth it.