The wild extremes of a traveling family (part II)

(This is continued from yesterday’s post.)

Okay friends, it’s time to shatter yesterday’s illusion of us being the family who always has it together. Gotta keep the blog real, I suppose.

I can hear it now, yesterday’s story, being mentioned to folks on the island who are standing in utter disbelief. “No!” they’d say. “That’s not the same family we saw. We’re sure of it. You must be thinking of someone else, someone else entirely.” Then, those folks would tell the tale of the family they saw a few days before, on the ferry ride to the island…

The ferry to Isla Taboga

We took a ferry in yesterday’s post too and it was great. We took pictures and everything. In this post, there will be no pictures – there were too many tears. Instead, I’ve attempted to illustrate the day to make up for all those lost photo ops.

The Scene: It’s four days earlier on a dock in Panama City. The afternoon heat is beating down on hordes of people waiting to go to the island. A haggard looking couple approaches the ticket counter with two babies; one is screaming.

Husband: (Over the baby’s screams) I’ve got to find some shade and try to calm her down.

Wife: (With sweat dripping down her face) Okay, I think there is a little shade over by that garbage can.

The husband manages to lug their heavy bags over to the small, smelly, shady spot. The island has no grocery store and they’ve had to supplement their luggage with several shopping bags packed with infant formula, food and several jugs of drinking water. People are staring. The baby screams louder.

Millie Twin of Taboga: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

crying baby

The wife struggles in Spanish to buy the tickets and is lectured by the ticket salesperson about the price of a return ticket and how it would be more cost effective to buy a round trip ticket. One of her babies is screaming not 20 feet from her and she DOES NOT CARE about the $2 total she would save by doing this. She can’t think over the screams long enough to even remember what day they’ll be returning, let alone how to say it in Spanish and she wishes the ticket lady and the “helpful” people next to her would just shut up about the stupid two buck savings.

Finally, with her tickets in hand and the sun hot overhead on the baby she is wearing she starts back to her husband.

Someone who works there: (Chasing after her) Señora, usted tiene que escribir sus nombres!

Wife: You have got to be kidding.

The person motions toward a line of people at a patio table with a clipboard. She struggles against tiny fists to keep the sunhat on her baby while she fans the baby with the tickets. Her shirt and the baby’s romper are drenched from their sweat. When it’s finally her turn, she sees the form not only requires names, but also passport numbers for all four tickets.

Wife: Again, you have got to be kidding.

Digging through the black pit of jam-packed despair that is her purse she unearths four passports. The baby tries to rip the paper. The baby tries to rip the passports, the baby throws her stupid sunhat onto the ground umpteen times. The mom and the baby finally decide through their tears and sweat that no actual harm will come from scribbling down random numbers on this piece of paper for some random ferry company and do just that. She returns to the screaming baby.


Husband: I don’t know what’s wrong with her.

Wife: Let’s switch.

The babies are slippery from sunscreen and sweat which makes switching babies mid-air close to impossible. Thankfully, no one looses their grip and now the wife has the screaming baby. She holds her close and instantly starts crying herself.

Probably everyone on the dock: What is wrong with this terrible family?

The boat arrives and it seems awfully close to being too small to fit the number of people waiting for it.

Husband: Do we get in line? There’s no shade.


The couple staggers with their babies and all their luggage over to the line.

Millie Twin of Taboga: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

crying baby

The ramp to the boat is unsteady and the wife is scared because she can’t see well because of the tears in her eyes. Someone helps her and her screaming baby onto the boat but no one helps her husband who is also carrying a baby and has all the heaviest bags.

Wife: Look! There’s open seats over here. Finally, a win.

Husband: We need a win.

They rush to the open seats and the wife immediately unloads the screaming baby from her carrier. She mixes a bottle even though her scheduled-down-to-the-minutes babies shouldn’t be hungry for at least another hour. The baby refuses. She offers the baby water. Still no dice. Dirty diaper? Nope. She digs in the diaper bag for one of the many burp rags or wash cloths that should be there and finally produces a dirty one. She pours water all over it and herself and attempts to wipe every last bit of sunscreen and sweat off the screaming, inconsolable child.

Wife: Maybe the sunscreen is in her eyes?

Probably everyone on the boat: What is wrong with this terrible family?

Absolutely no one: Can I help somehow?

The ferry starts and the hum of the boat is just loud enough to muffle the sounds of the screams and just quiet enough to be soothing to a baby. The baby is red and blotchy from screaming and feels so hot. The boat starts moving and she passes out in her mom’s arms, completely exhausted. As the boat hits its stride on the open sea and settles into its course the wife realizes their mistake.

Wife: It wasn’t a win. The sun is on this side of the boat.

sleeping baby

As the wife tries to shield her impossibly pale, now sunscreen-less baby from the blistering sun the husband searches through their bags. He does this all while trying to keep the other baby calm and maneuver around the crowds of hot, annoyed people. He finally produces a muslin baby blanket and fashions around his wife and baby to help protect them from the sun. His baby starts to cry and he needs to get her out of the sun too. They make their way to the other side of the boat and he stands the entirety of the boat ride because there are no other seats.

Finally, the boat reaches the island. The tired couple lets everyone disembark ahead of them. They wipe the sweat off of their foreheads and gather their babies and their heavy bags. The heat is stifling and there is no ocean breeze like it seems like there should be.

Probably everyone on the boat: If this is how this family functions, they are doomed. Doomed I tell you!

Husband: They’re right. We’re doomed.

So there you have it – the two conflicting sides of our crazy, traveling family. On a tiny island in Panama, there exist two camps: the ones who saw us at our best and the ones who saw the worst of it. So many locals approached us saying they’d heard about the “Twins of Taboga” and I have to wonder which camp is bigger. That’s life I suppose – always wondering what people think of you when in the end, it doesn’t really matter.

…Other than the fact that we might have caused a major rift among a very small island population. I can only hope they’ve all decided to agree to disagree about what they all witnessed. 🙂

Isla Taboga restaurant

Paige, with some locals at their restaurant. These women were most definitely in the happy family camp.

Here’s Millie at the same restaurant. I thought I’d better include a happy picture of her to make up for all my sad baby illustrations.

3 responses to “The wild extremes of a traveling family (part II)

  1. Pingback: Isla Taboga, Panama |·

  2. Pingback: We travel with kids and we break all our own parenting rules |·

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