I wish, that 5 and a half years ago, I had been a whole lot more understanding of my brother and his partner. They had travelled to Canada from Australia with their 18 month old twins. And they seemed so stressed out about everything. We will never be like that when we have kids, we thought. We will be so chill and relaxed.
Ha. Aha. Ha. Ahahahahaha. Ha. How stupid we were. Stupid. Quite stupid were we. Had we have known then what we know now about the incredible stressfulness of travelling with kids, we might have managed to be somewhat helpful.
It is hard. Like, bugger hard. Even to places full of people we know and love, and who know and love us and the kiddos. The kids are out of wack, because they are not in their familiar surroundings. And because you aren't in your own home, you don't necessarily have control over things you would normally have control over. Mealtimes and groceries and house temperature and routine and naps and such. Some of this you try to adapt to and some of this people try to make allowances around.
But sometimes there are things adaptation and allowances don't happen for. And it sucks to have to talk to people about these things, as you worry about your kids, because you feel, you know, really farking annoying. And so not chill and relaxed. Because sometimes you have to ask people to reduce their comfort level in their own space, or to change the way they do things, for the sake of your tots. For instance, I had to ask someone not to recline their car seat up against the baby car seat.... in their own car. This is an unavoidable by-product of travelling with kids. It's not anyone's fault - it's just the way it is. You feel like you are always weighing imposing your schedule and way of doing things on someone else's. Like - do I ask to turn up the thermostat, or do I bundle the kids up and cross my fingers and hope they don't catch a cold? Or, puzzling over how to deal with the fact that the sheer size of dogs in the house we are staying in makes the baby cry? Who knew? She normally loves dogs. (Apparently just not pony-dogs). Not forseeable and not the pony-dog's fault, that's for sure! These parts of the travel adventure aren't really fun for anyone.
And then there are the logistics of travelling with children - one third of a suitcase for me and the other two-thirds, plus a whole other suitcase, plus two carseats and as many carry-on as they let us take, for the tots (plus Brown Bear and Mr. Snuggle-Puppy, naturally). I become part pack-mule, part mama-airport-sherpa: schlepping toys and games and crayons a-jumble; navigating strange corners and security checks and crowds; preventing accidental gum theft and premature flushing from errant airport toilets (whose flushes we are afraid of). I do all of this while attempting to keep the kids' combined enthusiasm and cooped-upedness in check, in the hopes that we will not fall under the ire of random flight-attendants and other passengers and airport travellers. My kids are pretty experienced fliers, and yet still, sometimes we don't luck out in the child-friendly department, as my Air Canada rant will attest to.
Of course there are plenty of wonderful bits about travelling too. Getting to see loved ones we wish we saw much much much more, play and delight in the kids. Getting to see my Boy-o practically leap off of the airport escalator and fling himself with wild, devoted abandon into my moms' arms, screaming "NANNIENANNIENANNIE!" and making everyone in hearing radius at the airport smile from ear to ear. Having time to hang out with my moms, my sister, my reli's, and having the kids get to spend time with them too. Showing the kids where my family and I come from, where my history is, where I went to school and all of those tiny bits and pieces of me: all of these things are priceless. Walking through Wolseley, eating Tall Grass bread (I'm sorry - but there is no better bread, not anywhere in the whole world and universe), and old haunts like The Falafel Place (mmmmm breakfast) and Baked Expectations (mmmm Caramel Pecan Cheesecake). Having Thanksgiving for sixteen at Home St (my old house), which Boy-o called a party and at which he and Girlio had the most amazing time.
Those lovely and wonderful bits balance out the tough parts of travelling with smalls. But can't quite erase them. Because as anyone who's ever travelled with tots will tell ya - no matter how well travelled the tot, that shit is challenging.
(So M & T - if you're out there reading this: I'm so not chill and relaxed. Because no matter how nice the destination and travel and visit is, munchkin travel just ain't chill and relaxing.)