The Mom Files: Choices in Parenting

I’m slowly learning over months that will turn into years of being a mom that parenting is a series of rules you decide on and then 80% of the time you end up breaking them. It’s strange because sometimes Kamel and I have this light bulb moment and I think, “that would be really excellent to write about!” but then I don’t because watch, in 3 years I’ll totally disregard whatever system/rule/thought I came up with and then wow that’s annoying.

Like! For instance! Kamel and I have been trying to figure out just one real vacation for the year. One trip we both haven’t been, one adventure where their may be a beach, or some interesting food, or some fun activities that don’t belong in our usual life. Something where everything is about our schedule and taking a long lunch or a nap or spending the entire afternoon exploring little shops or kayaking or bike riding or whatever it may be. We’re trying to figure it out. And kids make that stuff complicated. Asking someone to watch your kid while you take 5 days away is difficult for me. I know that those 5 days are going to be really exhausting for that person. I will also worry that Gabe will be difficult or out of sorts because 5 days are a long time. So, I would just rather bring him along.

Ok, that’s not totally true. What I would REALLY rather is to have a real vacation where I don’t have to have my mom brain turned on at all, I don’t have to worry, I don’t have to know that in the back of my mind somewhere I am mentally doing the time difference to see if Gabe should be napping, or thinking “he should be in bed by now, I hope he is going down ok.” A real vacation would be a world where those things disappear for a while. The problem is, I don’t think that exists.

And that’s fine, because my main priority is that Kamel and I don’t stop having adventures just because we are parents. We don’t stop being adults just because we are surrounded by children. And I don’t mean the boring adults who go to work and come home and wear clean underwear, I mean the the “I do what I want!” kind. No, that sounds bad. The adults that are grown enough to make their own choices? Who can decide how they want to live and then execute it. Those kind. It’s just that part of that choice now involves small humans, which we agreed to create.

Anyway, back to my point. We are trying to go somewhere new and fun, and we’ll most likely be taking Gabe along with us because the alternative is complicated and stressful and I don’t mind not having any sleep-ins (I do a little) and I don’t mind scheduling our outings around nap time, or having to say no to some stuff because it doesn’t fit with the baby model. It’s better than feeling guilty for dropping my kid at someone else’s place and worrying about all the things I can’t see and shouldn’t be thinking about because VACATION.

So while Kamel and I are going back and forth with this whole thing, (“I don’t want to have to go with him.” “Well I’m not comfortable without him.” “But that means it is going to be hard and sucky.” “That’s not true! We have awesome times when we 3 have adventures.” “We should just wait until he can fully walk and talk and all of that.” “But by that time we’ll have more little people who can’t walk or talk and then it will be even harder.”) we decide that: We’re not taking our kids to Europe. Or anywhere out of North America.

(Flash forward 5 years and there is a group photo of us and all of our hoodlums in front of the freaking Eiffel Tower or some shit.)

Here is why: Domestic and mild international travel (Canada and Mexico… MILD) is challenging and expensive enough with the goober by our side. And it’s not that it’s so incredibly difficult to travel with kids – sometimes it is extra complicated, yes, but we do a pretty good job at it – it’s that we want to be able to go and have adventures and spend money on us and our marriage and our adult-ness without having it always be a family affair. Especially to places that our future and present children could not possibly appreciate.

And so, we’re talking about this and I really thought that we would be the jet setting family, except it turns out I don’t want to be. I want to be a jet setting Lauren. And call me selfish, that’s just fine, but I didn’t go outside of US/Canada until I was in m 20s. And I didn’t go to Europe with my parents, I went by myself and then I went with Kamel and I had to wait and wait and wait until I could afford a trip like that. And then I got to pick where I went and for how long and what I wanted to do when I got there. And it was so incredibly sweet when it finally happened, when I made that happen for myself. It’s a cool feeling to be the opposite of a tag along.

Maybe being a parent is sometimes about choosing what not to give your kids so that they can give it to themselves. And sometimes it’s throwing in the towel and saying, “Fine, have a freaking tater tot, and watch some kid’s TV while you’re at it,” when you said from the beginning “Only organic fruits and veggies will ever touch my baby’s lips.”

So, I reserve the right to change my mind and post that family photo of us all standing in front of Big Ben in 5 years. But most likely it will just be Kamel and me. We’ll make sure to bring back souvenirs.

7 thoughts on “The Mom Files: Choices in Parenting”

  1. We just did 4 days away without the baby and it was great but we also spent a lot of time discussing how we can’t wait to bring him with us. Also even without the babe there wasn’t any sleeping through the night, we just don’t know how anymore.
    We went snowmobiling so not exactly 5 month old friendly. We had baby stay with 3 different ppl so that no one had 4 nights of no-sleep baby.

  2. All my family trips from age 0 to 18 were in the lower 48 states or Canada (and 2x to Taiwan to see family). I love those memories, and I have loved that I got to start to explore the rest of the world and overseas travel on my own and now with Jason. I think there’s a lot of ink spilled about traveling with kids starting from when they’re small “so that they’ll learn to be good little travelers and appreciate other cultures” blah blah blah as if those things can ONLY be taught via international trips, when that’s really not the case at all. But I wonder if it’s another one of those low-level-anxiety-causing parent messages…..

  3. Blerch. Ate my comments twice. To sum up: any compromise destinations nearby? Few of my mum friends have been taking short trips to Bali and Thailand, which isn’t super far for us here in Australia, can be super cheap if you do your research, is exotic and full of adventures, and have great/affordable kids’ club and nannies. So you can take the kid but also have adult adventures (tiger-patting!) without worrying that you’re inconveniencing friends and family with a cranky, sleepless toddler.

  4. I don’t see why it has to be either/or. Why not some of each? I lived overseas as a child and I have friends and family members who travel all the time. Sometimes they travel with the kids, sometimes not. Sometimes they take the kids overseas (mostly the older ones as they’re of an age to appreciate it more) and sometimes not.

    I think it’s good for a child to travel some and get experience outside their realm but I also think it’s good for them to see their parents go off and have adventures together and come back – and to learn that they value each other for themselves and not just as “mom” and “dad”.

    Also, I do think it teaches a child something to see other parts of the world. I don’t think appreciating other cultures is solely a function of travelling but I do think that hearing that other people live differently and seeing it for themselves are vastly separate things, especially for tweens/teens who, let’s face it, haven’t developed a whole lot of ability to see past their own noses at that point. 🙂 It’s easy to say “yeah yeah, I know mom, there are people who don’t have 3 televisions and flush toilets” but they don’t actually get it until they see people living that way. Then it’s “whoa, mom you weren’t kidding!”

    Just my $0.02 … for whatever they’re worth! 🙂

  5. I am the biggest promoter of: adventures do not have to be far away… but, but, for international travel I think it is up to 2 years old that you pay almost nothing for an air ticket. (10 % of the price) We already booked her first trip overseas, because little one has to meet loads of people. I have friends who have done it and though challenging I think it is doable.

    For us that is going to mean (hopefully, and like you, we will probably change our minds / readjust) trying to pack some of the big places we want to see in the next two years (that is before air travel to far away places gets crazy expensive). For those later years we are OK with the holidays being weekend trips or road trips (2-3 hrs away) where we can camp or do other kinds of fun stuff..

    I think cities can also be fun for kids, you just do different things, like instead of going out clubbing, you go to the Natural History Museum or The Zoo (I guess in our case that is easy because I am a 5 year old and we already do the latter rather than the former).

    BTW I really recommend he series of travel books by the New York Times 36 Hours t. It gives ideas for weekend trips ,off the beaten road and some are specifically children friendly. We have the Europe version, but, there are US and CAnada , Asia/IOceania and Latin America versions as well.

    But… please do come to Europe soon, if you come to us, we will babysit while you go on weekend trips around, seriously! And we can do all kinds of stuff together!

  6. My parents went to Europe without me or my brother when I was about 11 and I was pretty pouty about it at the time, of course. “Why won’t you take us with you? No fair!” They had never not taken us on a trip before, and I was bummed. But as my mother told me at the time, she hadn’t ever been to Europe and she was 40, I could wait. I think it was the first time in my childhood that I consciously had to acknowledge my parents as individuals in their own right who wanted to do things for themselves, and not just as my parents. And that their world did not 100% revolve around me. Which was probably a more valuable lesson than whatever I would have learned about culture or European history had I gone with them.

  7. I used to resent the fact that my parents didn’t take us much travelling as kids (though they did move us to a new country…)

    But now I’m older, I understand. It’s freaking expensive. We live in NZ so it costs a bomb to get anywhere. And quite frankly, travel can be very taxing even with two adults (as I can tell you after a six-month RTW trip…)

    I personally doubt we’ll travel (much) when we have kids.

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