We’re going away next month to travel for three weeks. We’ll visit two countries, be in six flights (2 in a sea plane!), some train and road trip by car/bus. Pristine is 10 and Benjamin is only 2 years and 8 months old. We will be spending time at the beach, hiking on a nature trail, they will see animals they have not seen before and probably, if we are lucky, there might be RAIN. This is a very exciting idea to me but, the inevitable has happened. I’ve been smacked in the face with the comment,
WHY BOTHER? THE KIDS WON’T REMEMBER!
The people in my real world would add, “Why do you travel with your kids when they’re too young? They don’t understand what they’re seeing. It’s just a waste of time, effort and money!”
I tried to take that comment seriously, keep struggling through the years but I always come back to wanting to ask them back:
Why bother showering children and babies with love, cuddle them, kiss them or read them bed time stories? They won’t remember!
Just because young children don’t remember those moments and experiences don’t mean they are less meaningful. Or less important.
Travel is the same. It’s a bonding experience for the whole family. It’s about creating memories. I love the example comparing memory with experience through reading to your children. Why bother reading books to your young children if they won’t remember it exactly?
~ Pristine very eager to hold a live chicken in the Philippines ~
The thing is, it’s not about remembering specifically every sentence and picture in the book, it’s about the experience it brings. The sound of the words, the visual of the pictures. It’s stimulating their little minds and making them feel you are in this wonderful experience with them.
Pristine was 16 months when we travelled outside the country for the first time (just me and her). She didn’t remember any of it but when she looks at the photos, she gets very excited and says, “Was I a good baby on the plane, mom?” And I tell her that yes, she was while the other babies were screaming their lungs off during a bumpy ride to Manila from Japan.
~ Pristine very overwhelmed with the concept of sleeping with a mosquito net in the Philippines ~
Pristine loves to hear these stories. She lights up when I show her photos of herself and share stories about what we all experience together. It makes her feel loved, important, special AND included.
We gathered our courage to travel all the way to Europe when she was 2 years and 4 months in 2006. It was our first long haul flight as a family. She was still good on the plane and she tells all her friends with pride every chance she gets: “I was a little traveller and did not cry on the plane.”
And the stories are endless. “So I went to Holland when I was shorter than the tulips?” I actually laughed, yes! And this is what travel is about – creating and sharing stories they will cherish throughout their lives.
Travelling as a family also strengthens bonds between parents. Like, we learn to take turns who carries a heavily jet lagged toddler on a city walk!
Travel teaches us lessons otherwise we wouldn’t have known if we didn’t get out of our comfort zones. Like, a stroller is a must and your back can only bear so much, for long hours!
Just a note – she wasn’t always sleeping…only on those odd hours after we landed. See, after a while she’s just being herself.
We learned our lesson when we took Benjamin to Japan for the first time last year. Stroller!
That said, I’d like to think that we are lucky to have Pristine who is very open to anything travel-related. (As for the other, well, he is two. He will go wherever I go!) Pristine loves packing, too and has learned to pack for herself since she was 5 or 6!
Parks, beaches, hiking trails, she is all game. She loves to eat local food and readily poses for photos with a smile, always. Benjamin on the other hand is the ever curious and I feel he loves our travels too.
I believe in living in the here and now so I won’t wait till my children *get* it before going out to see the world with them.
Now that Pristine is older (and Ben is catching up – being very observant and communicative), the memories they will be forming from the experiences we’re going to have in our travels will be incredibly rich. No book, lesson, movie, or YouTube could come close to leaving the same impression.
~ A short pit stop on our way to Tokyo at Suwa Interchange, overlooking Suwa Lake in Nagano, Japan ~
But before the sights and scenes and new places and food and adventure, travelling allows us to give 100% undivided attention to our children. There are no deadlines to meet, work timings to catch. We are there with them, all day, every day. As working parents, this is a precious time for us to reset and focus on them wholly, without distractions.
Travelling with young children is part of their developmental process. We do this because we want them to always understand that there are many different cultures, food, languages and that differences are normal.
~ paying respect to her dad’s grandma in her dad’s family’s home in Niigata, Japan ~
I see no reason why they can’t experience and retain this global perspective from a young age.
Perspective for parents: you will have 18 summers until your children moves out to college. Take out 1-3 summers when you feel they’re really small and young and can’t handle travel yet (I fully understand the hesitation!) and you get 15. Only fifteen summers (or less) before they get busy with their own lives to travel with you.