Like every other good, terrified parent, Andy and I are trying our best to not screw up our kids. If I’ve learned anything from my 16 months of being a parent, it’s that there are a lot of rules. When you’re traveling, none of the rules apply. Do you hear me? None.
To be fair, even before kids came a long, traveling has always lent itself well to breaking a few rules. Nothing big, of course, just playing it a little fast and loose with social norms like drinking Red Bull or beer before 8 AM, sneaking a weapon into a facility that’s trying really hard to be highly secured or even crazy things like not keeping your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times.
Here are a few of the wacky things we’ve let go of so far, at least for as long as we’re in another country:
- Letting strangers put random food in my babies’ mouths.
While I hope not to make this a common practice, this did happen. No joke. The girls were just nine months old when we went to Panama – which for those of you who don’t know, means they weren’t exactly scarfing down steak and potatoes yet. One morning at the island’s mini mart while I was digging in my purse for money, the friendly Panamanian woman who worked there was chatting with Paige. I was wearing her like this:
The next thing I know, the woman popped a piece of croissant in her mouth. Then, before I had a chance to say anything, she took another piece, decided it was a little too big, bit it in two, and popped the remaining piece into Millie’s mouth. And that is how my my organic vegetable, free-range chicken loving Portlanders were initiated into the world of sweet breads from random strangers. Yum!?
- Letting strangers take it one step further…
Along those same lines of crossing what I consider to be normal personal bubble boundaries, at one point on that same trip I was waiting in line to buy ferry tickets (yep, for this terrible ride) when a couple in front of me was fawning over Paige who was sticking her tongue out.
Anyway, the couple was commenting on this and before I knew it, the woman started poking little Paige’s tongue with her finger. Us crazy Americans with our huge personal bubbles, am I right? What are you gonna do?
- Letting screen time into our lives, big time…
The first thing they do when you arrive at Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal is usher you into a theater to watch a introductory movie on the history of the canal. Nine months of no screen time and BAM! we take them to a loud, flashy 3D movie. We turned down the 3D glasses for the kids but they watched it nonetheless.
- Letting even more screen time in…
Because, you know, time differences and being really, really tired and needing a break.
The good news is that they really upped their sign language game on that trip.
- Being forced by restaurant staff to give up personal rules about diaper changes…
I’m an American; I live in a land where the second you become a parent you have to start apologizing to everyone. I’m constantly sorry for the noise my babies make, the space they take up, the fact that they aren’t adorably cooing at you when you got right in their faces and terrified them at the grocery store. I’m sorry; I’m sorry all the time. So in Belgium, when one of my girls needed a diaper change I was ready to be sorry and to handle the situation as discreetly as possible, until they were like, “Meh, babies need changed, we won’t shame you for it.”
Guys, it was crazy. I was so uncomfortable.
I took a baby inside at a restaurant fully prepared to do a quick, apologetic standing diaper change in a bathroom stall. As I headed back a waiter stopped me and asked, in French, something along the lines of, “Is this trip to the restroom for the baby?” I answered yes (in Spanish, of course, because I always seem to accidentally revert to the one foreign language I do speak when faced with any foreign language) and he whipped out a changing pad. Graciously, I took it and continued to head on back. He stopped me, took it back and plopped it down on one of the tables. Astonished, I asked, “¿¡Aqui!?”. Disinterested as to why this foreign woman (American? Maybe Spanish?) was having a hard time understanding, he nodded and walked away leaving my baby and I with all our American shame and no one to apologize to.
- Letting kids play in the back of a random van…
Growing up I was always told not to get into the back of random vans but we might just have to let our kids break this rule if we ever make it back to Guatapé, Colombia. It would just be too funny to pass up.
And there you have it, in black and white, all the reasons how traveling has made us screw up our parenting little by little. Something tells me they’ll still be okay though. I mean, how could they not, they’re not even two and they’ve already mastered the art of not needing a Red Bull before 8 AM… or any other time for that matter.