Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Ditching plans (and pants) on the road to enlightenment
For most of us, I think I can safely say, traveling with young children is an exercise in patience and prayer.
"Please, oh please, oh please GOD-I-WISH-I-COULD-BELIEVE-IN, please don't let this boy melt down here. Not in the middle of the terminal while I'm schlepping two bags, a coat and his now slack body, gone limp because there just wasn't time to put him down on the moving sidewalk. There's only 10 minutes left until the plane is scheduled to be in the sky and we haven't found the gate, let alone the shoe I just discovered missing from his foot."
"Mommy," says his sister. "I have to pee."
Please, oh please, oh please.
For me, travel is kind of like childbirth. All the planning in the world doesn't ensure it will go smoothly. Late connections, like non-progressive contractions, can change the whole thing.
Of course, there's also the time changes. Three hours difference from east to west ensures the kids will be up at 4 a.m. Pacific, demanding breakfast that won't be available until 7 a.m.
"I told you we should have stopped at a grocery store," my inner critic jabs. They settle for $2 pretzels from the honor bar.
Leave the kids alone in the room for a few minutes as you relieve your travel-worn bladder and you may find one of them not wearing pants upon your return.
"Where did they go?"
"In der," he says in his man-boy voice, proudly signaling to the safe in the closet sans closable door.
It's not nearly as funny to you in the momement as it is the clerk at the front desk, who wonders if he knows the combination. Then you laugh.
It's inevitable. There's never enough snacks, bathroom breaks or pants packed away when you travel with us, no matter how much we've planned.
The expression flying by the seat of one's pants could have been coined for us.
Although we hear the perfunctory are-we-there-yets, neither child is intent on wordy repetition. Instead we talk about the drive, and the things we see along the way that are different from the things we've seen up until then.
It hurts my husband's soul a little when he can't lure his son out of the play area on the ferry to see the vistas of Vancouver as we make our way to a family wedding.
They are more interested in understanding the process than seeing the sites.
How many days are we staying?
How many hotels.
Will there be a zoo?
Can we get a special?
Are we having dessert for dinner one night?
Can I be a flower girl?
Will there be games?
Eventually, though, the enormity of the endeavor comes into sharp focus.
Upon passing our first border checkpoint and learning Canada doesn't stamp the passports, disappointment wafts in the air.
All that work to get and no stamp to say we'd gone some place.
No matter. The information center where we stop for directions offers almost immediate redemption. It looks like a rock building and has a waterfall coming down its far wall. It's a thing of beauty to a five-year-old.
"SWEET! I LOVE Canada!"
Disappointment is fleeting when you keep moving forward.