Traveling with kids is great. It’s amazing! It’s easy! It’s perfect in every way! Ummm… no. Travel with kids, just like anything you do as a parent, is far from perfect or easy, and is sometimes just not that much fun. There are missteps, accidents, local snafus and a few awkward moments to say the least.
While traveling in China on business with my son, then 20-months-old, I had an odd encounter with a woman outside of the local Wal-Mart (yes, even China has giant box stores). As I approached the entrance a she came towards us and started reaching for my son.
Normally the locals would just pat his cheek and gesture that he was adorable. This is something I was more than used to after two trips to this part of the world. However, her objective was more than a simple hello. I used every hand gesture and Chinese word I knew (I know three words total) to convey to her that no, she could not unstrap my child from his stroller and pick him up. This crossed a line that my jet-lagged brain just couldn’t handle at that moment.
Thankfully the woman quickly backed off, and understood my concerns. The people I met in China were extremely friendly, and I will say that my blue-eyed son may be a minor celebrity at this point since he had his picture taken multiple times a day. Rarely did anyone make me feel uncomfortable with his or her attention. It was a nuisance to stop so much for photos, but it was a fun experience that allowed us to meet more people than we would have on our own without my son.
Speaking of uncomfortable, sometimes you will come across situations that you just might not be ready to explain to your kids. Jessica from Suitcases and Sippy Cups begged her boys to stop pestering her when their family was lost in Athens trying to find their hotel.
One of her sons suggested they ask the ladies standing on the corner for help. Little did her son know, although Jessica certainly did, that these were women on the night looking for their next job. Jessica’s sons were too young to understand what was going on, but Jessica was mortified and begged her husband to figure it out and get them to their hotel. Jessica looks back on this story now and laughs, but I’m sure it will go down in history as “that time we saw hookers in Greece and mom wouldn’t let us stop to ask them for directions cause she was too embarrassed.”
Unfortunately not every travel snafu is hilarious. During our 5-week trip around Europe we were visiting Tuscany with a few friends. Our kids were playing. I repeatedly asked my oldest, who was 3 at the time, to stop playing with the gate by the steps. Apparently his ears were not working no matter how much I yelled.
A few minutes later I heard my friend gasped and I turned around. Never have I heard such a guttural cry come out of my mouth. I watch my son roll head over feet down the stone steps of the agritourismo we were staying at. I saw his neck breaking in my mind, bones shattering and losing my son forever. My heart still clenches just thinking about this moment.
I ran past him on the steps so I could catch him before he fell anymore. I scooped him up and was convinced I would never ever let him go. I got him to a chair and started feeling every bone in his body. He was fine. He had a gash on the side of his head from where he had clipped a stone edge, but other than that he was perfectly fine. He screamed more while I tried to clean the gash and figure out if he needed stitches than he did after the fall. Promises of gelato calmed everyone down. I got him bandaged up and we all headed into town. I kept a careful watch on my son to make sure he didn’t have a concussion, and yes, I woke up every hour that night to make sure he was still breathing.
Life with kids is crazy, whether you are at home or exploring a distant land. Accidents happen, cultural snafus occur and you will meet people from every walk of life. Roll with what your travels bring you, pack a first aid kit and maybe pray a little extra hard while on the road. These things can happen anywhere.
Parenthood isn’t perfect, so you better figure out where you want to do it. I prefer the back roads of Tuscany, ladies of the night and friendly strangers myself.