Written by: Brenda Pomponio
Does it get any easier?
As a mother of a 12 and 10-year old, this is a question I often get asked when we talk about family travel. Even during our travelling adventures I will most likely at some point gravitate or strike up a conversation with other parents and if their children are younger, they look to me, eyes pleading at times and ask…Does it get easier?
I find it really difficult to answer. Maybe because I love a good parenting conversation or my inability to answer yes or no to such a question still leaves to much unsaid and unanswered. If I say yes, I raise their hopes (which I might dash), if I say no I may sound disgruntled and resentful even. Or maybe I’ll sound honest.
We travelled to Italy and New Zealand this year, and now I have had some time to ponder this. Was it easier than previous travel adventures? I think and think and think. Easier is such a word that denotes such an array of meaning. Usually, when people ask, I want to probe “easier how exactly” or “in what way, in particular, do you mean”.
To be honest these follow up question are more for my own need as I feel I need a reference point. Parenting is fluid, ever-changing on a continuum. You are parenting in one age, developmental stage, issue, delight or moment at a time for each child. Never at the same moment twice always propelling forward, sometimes looking back (did I get that right? could I have done better?) and then add in something else.
It does seem impossible, but like so many of us quickly realise it’s not. Family Travel is not impossible. On the contrary, it is certainly possible.
But does it get easier as they get older? I would like to say I have a simple answer but I don’t. What I have instead is a varied way of looking at.
It’s not so much it gets easier as it changes. It’s like that continuum, it keeps travelling along it. As their independence increases so do there opinion about where they prefer to eat or dine or what activity to do. As their need for you to be in control of their basic needs like sleep time, nap times, feeding and washing decreases, they are now independent to take charge of those individual needs.
It may be easier to explain to a 12-year-old about a delay in getting from one place to another more than a toddler who is feeling impossible to keep contained at the train station. Yet on the flipside, that same 12 year old can also flat out refuse to a trip to the local museum or baulk at the thought of walking through a street market filled with jewels and clothes. The toddler in this instance perched on his parents’ shoulders might be delighted. Yes, our children can eat independently when out and about, why, most times they order for themselves. They understand more complex intricacies to our travels and are increasingly included in conversations about our plans so now there are four-way conversations where there used to be two. We no longer bring along extra luggage like a stroller or travel cot, yet we have children that can often stay awake longer than us and have hormones that have nowhere to go however manage to explode everywhere.
An older child may be more independent, require less fussing over – yet their needs and challenges are still ever present, just perhaps not as visually recognisable. Whilst travelling with older children, the conversations about culture, religion, race, homelessness, and fairness are just some of the topics we have discussed. Whilst in Catania in Sicily we literally rode past maybe 20 or so prostitutes in a side street – which prompted a very interesting conversation. There was no time to prepare – answer or start a trend of shutting down inquisitiveness and intrigue. After all, its moments like these that can make family travel so worthwhile. Opening their minds and building up that acceptance, tolerance and even patience.
So as your children age, and you celebrate those milestones as we all do. The toilet training, the end of daytime naps, the independent feeding, bathing, dressing and so on, you also welcome the independence of spirit, of opinion, of curiosity, of understanding deeper the places that you are visiting and sharing with them. A personality is forming and they will be more than happy to share all facets of this in the most unpredictable of times and places. You will travel parent on the fly, asking yourself…
Does it get easier?
It just changes.