Friday, January 22, 2016

Just Keep Tryin',You'll Get BETter! (Or Why We Endure Travel With Young Kids)

Today's heading is brought to you by Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, one of those annoyingly catchy animated cartoon characters that PBS does so very well. The show's themes tend to be quite pro-social: practice in order to get better, it's ok to be sad; feelings come and go. Did I mention how damn catchy the songs are? One listen and you'll be humming repetitively until bedtime (ad over, not that I'm trying to sell it to you!).

We just returned from another weekend tourist trip with the children. We've been making it a priority in the last year to travel to low-key settings to change our scenery and explore new places. Low-key to me means we drive no more than 4 hours each way and stay in a rental house or hotel (vs. camping).

In the past year, we've visited the mountain towns around Asheville, Greensboro, Oak Island, Washington DC, and most recently, Richmond, VA. Matthew and I have taken grownups-only trips to Miami, Savannah and Charleston as well. I mostly enjoy travel research-wading through page after page of web material, weeding out the tourism board shills selling tours and time shares, to gather a paper list in my orange notebook of what I think our family will enjoy.  Sometimes I get it very wrong; that great-looking museum is dusty and dated, that mountain swimming hole is icy cold, even in summer. Often the greatest thrill is something decidedly not on the official sights list: riding the DC subway or the see-through elevators at the fine arts museum in Richmond, the thrill of entering an Air B n B property and discovering....other people live differently than we do! And hey, what's in this closet?!

Richmond was artful, gorgeous murals on building sides everywhere we looked. 
Buttcheeks! 
We moved FAST through Fine Arts Museum but saw several incredible things.

video


There are many challenging moments in traveling with our kids. I don't think I'm alone in this sentiment. The all-family, all-together at all-times can quickly stress me out. On our latest trip, the kids woke up at 6 am and began wrestling. Something about this spacious (and dumpy) apartment inspired them to grapple constantly and we worried about the noise for the downstairs neighbor. We had to physically restrain them at times because they were having such a damn good, very loud time. We wouldn't have cared about neighbors nor early morning wake-ups at home because they can find their way to the cartoons and Cheerios. They had even more intrusive questions and commentary than usual, offered unhelpfully at moments when Matthew and I were debating directions while whizzing along at 60 mph, whether that No Parking time range on that sign includes the precise time we are wanting to park there, should we eat now at an off-peak hour or after the next activity when restaurants may be busier? M. suspects they feel some anxiety about the unfamiliar, like what if we get in trouble for parking in the wrong spot? I suspect they are extra curious and exploring in our new setting, exactly the reason we travel to new places, oh yeah...don't you hate that?!

We keep trying and we are getting better. On the whole, there are more moments of happiness than struggle while we travel. There is deep learning and lots of conversations about what we are seeing. For the first time, Noah really appreciates the violence and heartache of war (he's had a rather storybook/superhero/good guys vs. bad guys concept of war until now). We watched a video at the American Civil War Museum with black and white photography of battlefields during the Civil War (Richmond was an important city in the war). I've been reluctant to show him images of war because modern photography and videos are more graphic and potentially traumatizing than black and white still imagery from 150 years ago. He was quiet and serious after, and asked many questions about war in the car ride home: why do people fight in wars if they might die?, what happens to people who aren't soldiers when there is a war in your town?. We discussed whether war is sometimes necessary (like, in the matter of ending slavery in the US), the concept of a draft, our families' experiences with the military. Rich stuff and we're still discussing. .

I think there is something about changing your usual scenery and daily routines that stimulates a new, more curious point of view. Where shall we explore next?

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