Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Wonderful Terrible Adventure

Travel with children is wonderful.  They are so eager for adventure, and unofficial research has shown that 98.37%* of all good adventures are found on the journey itself. (*This statistic applies only to children and solo adults carrying very large backpacks).

While the adult is busy thinking about the full day of travel to reach the destination, the child is busy taking in the size and echo of the giant new playground/airport full of shiny reflections, endless corridors, escalators, and of course, "Airplane! And another airplane! And an airplane going up in the air! And that airplane looks like a bird!!"  While the recently mobile child thinks, "Run! Climb! Elude! Freeeeeedoooooom!"

The adult settles into the airplane seat and rearranges 52 items from 7 bags - snacks, toys, water bottles, distracting mobile devices - check.  The child has already found new toys: the windowshade, the tray table, the buttons that don't seem to do anything, and especially the safety card - "Look, those people are on an airplane too!  What are they doing?  What's that sign?  What's that light?  What's that slide?  I want to go on the slide!"  And the baby child thinks, "Ooh, yummy table.  Ooh, tasty armrest.  Ooh, must grab another safety card to eat!"

Repeat the airport and airplane scene a few more times, and the adult has never been happier to see the hotel room.  Must. lie. down.  The child is overjoyed by her very own tiny home to explore.  "Look at that bathtub!! It's so big!!  What's this little room? (A closet - we don't have those. Or bathtubs.) It's like a little house!  Oh look there is my own bed!"  Meanwhile the less verbal child thinks, "Ooh, someone left me a crumb!  A PHONE!  I wonder if I can fit my fingers in those tiny holes in the wall?  Look at the big bed!  Must. climb."

And when the adult travels with child, the adult starts to see things in a new light.  All those airplanes taking off in the air are pretty amazing and the airport (some parts) are great places to run, even when you aren't about to miss a flight.  Thank goodness for a giant free playground and a large admiring audience (We mainly travel in Asia where children, especially foreign ones, are almost universally beloved.) And yes, the emergency slide does look fun, even if you never want to try it.  The child causes the adult to remember that travel is supposed to be an adventure.

Travel with children is terrible.  Unofficial research has shown that 98.37%* of sleep, reasonable behavior, and general sanity are left behind at the starting location.  (*This statistic applies to both children and adults).

The adult arrives on vacation (we'll say the beach) needing vacation.  The trials of travel are over and now it is time to relax.  The child suddenly and is freaking out about the sink handles in the bathroom.  The baby child (who has spent the entire day running away) suddenly must touch the adult at every moment, even/especially in sleep.

The adult, despite years of contrary experience, still believes that vacation = sleeping in.  The child believes that sleeping in = "It's 5:20 am!! It's still dark, but let's go out and play!!  The less verbal child believes that vacation = doing away with those silly notions of "sleep" and "nighttime" altogether.  Loudly.

The adult, despite years of contrary experience, brings a book down to sit on the beach.  The child thinks that the beach is too sandy and the water is *moving* and the pool looks much better except that the playground is even more fun.  No, let's go back to the pool.  The beach!  The pool!  Nevermind, let's just watch Frozen.

The adult gazes out at the ocean and thinks 3.2 seconds worth of deep, contemplative thoughts.  Meanwhile the recently mobile child tries to dive headfirst into the pool, eats some sand, and then takes off straight for a cuddly-looking jellyfish.

The adult looks forward to sampling the local foods.  The child would like a peanut butter sandwich.  Daily.  For every meal.  The baby child would like to sample all the local foods.  Preferably from the floor.

Despite the Germ-x baths, nobody is too surprised when the baby gets sick.  And drinks from the child's water, making the child sick.  Who coughs all over the adult, making the adult sick.  The baby gets better and is ready to play.  The child gets better and is ready to play.  The adult stays sick.

Travel with children is wonderful.  Particularly if you are the child.