We have done a ton of traveling since the girls were born. Just four short weeks after Caroline's birth, we traveled to Puerto Rico to attend my best friend's wedding. I'm comfortable with being on the go- all of the time- and with kids in tow. Traveling, and being out in public, with kids, is a learned skill and, in my opinion, is a true art form.
When the kiddos are itty bitty, you have to learn how to cart all of the crap with you and be able to distinguish between the crap you really need on the road and what crap should stay at home. Like car seats. Yes, it is worth sticking your body in the car, in the airport parking garage, in the dark at 5 am, and wrestling with the belts and buckles to extricate the ginormous car seat and then clunkily balance it on your luggage while you hussle to the check-in. (Yes, you have earned the right to pay the extra $3/day to park in the garage and not in long term.) Get this, nobody will tell your baby if you use disposable diapers for your overnight trip in a hotel so that you don't have to carry around poopy/pissy pants in a wet sack for 48 hours. Yep, you can warm up your baby's bottle without that fancy-pants bottle warmer Aunt Patty got you from your registry. Ask your Mom, she'll show you how. Same goes for the wipe warmer. Baby will still coo and smile when you change her even if you aren't removing poo from her fanny with a perfect temp wipe. (It's not a spa people, it's a diaper change. Get 'er done.)That magic binky that seems to be the only DAMN THING IN THE ENTIRE WORLD THAT GETS YOUR KID TO SLEEP? Bring two. Blankie? Put it in that secret fanny pack, you know that one you have under your shirt, with your passport? That shit's sacred.
Traveling with kids is stressful and physically challenging. I don't think I've sweat more in my life than I have traveling with my children. Carting the stuff, carting the kids, getting up and down, rocking, running, assembling and unasembling, packing, unpacking, re-packing: it all requires quick thinking and fast moving. My mom, who only took me out in public once a week, to church, just doesn't understand why I go through the pain and stress over and over again. Unlike my mom, who decided to hibernate for 15 years, I was determined that being a parent wasn't going to stop me from having fun and being social. I travel with the kids because I don't want to miss out. As a big time extrovert, it's hard for me not to take part in a good wedding, friend gathering, cousing bonding vacation or bite out after a long week at work. Since child care is hard to find, and is expensive, and because I spend so much time away from the girls already, I try to "kill two birds with one stone" and share, rather than separate, our experiences.
And share experiences, indeed, we have. Like standing in a hallway, behind a closed door during a wedding, because the girls are whining and crying and we don't want to disturb the ceremony. Like sitting in a hotel room while everyone is enjoying the wedding reception because you thought she'd fall asleep in the stroller and you could tuck her in a corner so you could have a drink and cake, but instead she melted down and you are alone in your room crying and eating a left over happy meal she didn't eat for lunch. Like walking around a hotel parking lot from 6-9 am because your kid gets up before everyone else and then, when the rest of your group gets up to eat breakfast, you sit in your hotel room, with the curtain drawn, while your kid takes her mid-morning nap.
Instead of bringing me into the social action that I so crave, having my kids in tow at public events and social functions has too often isolated me from others. Countless times I have hoped and dreamed and anticipated seeing an old friend or family member, to end the event having hugged the friend/family member hello and good bye and not exchanged any words and merely mouthed "sorry" and pointed downward while the toddler dragged me to a location as far away possible from any other adult. I have been so close, to social fun, yet so far from it, all at the same time.
Today, I was really excited to catch up with a friend after we both had a hectic week. We decided we would get our girls together and do a little shopping at an outdoor flea market. The kids could be loud, play with eachother and we could gab while strolling behind them. Our first hour was spent eating lunch- cutting up food, re-rodering food after the first food served was deemed unacceptable, picking up spilled drinks and being talked over- and over -and over. Thirty minutes of the second hour was spent chasing the kids to each flea market table and managing the multitude of junk purchase demands. The following twenty minutes we divded and conquered. She took one of my kids, with hers, to do more junk purchasing, while I stood outside a toilet stall at a coffee shop so one of my kids could poop. I'm pretty sure that 2/3 of my outdide-the-home life since kids has been spent either standing outside of, or facing a corner/wall (I am afraid to be alone but don't look at me!) in toilet stall.
"Oh, you went to the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, Canada? Yes, yes, me, as well. I agree, their ornithology collection is equisite! And might I add that their restroom facilities are sparkling!"
You say you are looking for a great place to go on vacation? Might I suggest the Duluth, Minesota area? Their parks are educational and fun and you could sit on the floor of their restrooms! You won't even feel like you need to hot wash your kids when they crawl under the bathroom stall when they forget how to unlock the door!
Oh, you were at the Cinderella ballet at The Albany Egg? We were, too! Why didn't I see you? Oh, that's right! We spent 30 of the 50 minute performance in the bathroom. Yes, the kids found the echo in the bathroom more entertaining than the ballerinas! Oh, you say the performance can be streamed on YouTube? Great news. Glad we spent $50 on those tickets.
As time goes on, and the girls become more independent, we have found that it's getting easier. We are definitely carrying less stuff around with us. We're down to a booster seat and we usually find the nearest Wal-Mart and pick up certain travel necessities once we arrive at our destination. Smart phones have helped us communicate, and catch up, with our loved ones so that, in the event we are like ships passing in the night at a reunion or wedding, we still know what they had for dinner last Tuesday, how much they hate Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump, and what their kids wore on the first day of school. And that play date with my friend today? For the last hour, the girls played together, wihout fighting, and we talked! About, like three things- from start to finish! And nobody had to poop.