Back in the fall of 2005, Terence picked up the phone and heard some old friends jubilantly declare: “it’s official! We have exited the Tunnel of Darkness!” Their children were both in school, sleeping through the night, able to entertain themselves and each other for more than five minutes at a time. After many years of exhausting baby-toddler-preschooler-little kid labor, this family saw the light and promptly began planning all the adventures they would undertake together with their newfound freedom. (And they did).
At the time, we were perhaps the tiniest bit resentful, since I was in my third trimester of my first pregnancy –in other words, just entering the Tunnel of Darkness. But now I am starting to understand how they felt.
Oh, we are not totally in the clear. Daily life and especially any kind of trip still requires attention to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, although to be fair this is for all of us not just the girls. We still travel with a “bag of tricks” — snacks, iPad, water bottles, the best use of $11 ever — but instead of diapers we now bring chapter books. Little by little, our kids are becoming more able to just deal with the unexpected, strange, new and this makes travel infinitely more fun.
This is the kind of incremental change a parent doesn’t always notice, but when I stop and reflect, I notice all kinds of little milestones. Last weekend, for instance, during our Galilee/West Bank road trip, the girls:
– ate yet another falafel sandwich for dinner without complaining
– adjusted to a totally different experience from the one we anticipated
– successfully used their first Eastern-style bathrooms
– smiled at curious locals in the Nablus souk
For every accomplishment, there are still hassles: car sickness, sibling rivalry, boredom (HERE?!!). Yet I need to keep remembering to notice and praise the kids for these little portents of maturity and flexibility. After all, I want them to grow up into intrepid world travelers who will invite me along on their adventures!
One more funny sign of their maturation: Terence and I forgot to do the Easter Bunny routine on April 8. We were just back from our trip, and distracted by doing “Easter in Jerusalem” to the max. “Maybe the Easter Bunny has jet lag,” contemplated Margaret. “Maybe he’s coming for Orthodox Easter,” countered Hannah. And sure enough, he showed up in our hostel in Nazareth on April 15!