Just past the x-ray machines, my shoes are on again and my nicely packed bags are in shambles as I look back to see my 4 girls fanning me. I have embarked upon this trip countless times in the last 23 years but I have made only one cross-Atlantic journey without some form of child in-tow. For more than two decades now, I have been shepherding children in various stages across the European and North American continents but today, as I look over my shoulder, something has changed.
This time, I have travel companions. We are 5 women facing the travel task together: cooperating, navigating, consulting. With absolute confidence and comfort, they are utilizing the skills that they have been honing since their first trans-Atlantic journeys made long before they had even tried their first cracker. It occurs to me there in the duty-free hallway that they are just as capable and competent as I am to juggle this journey across oceans, cultures, and languages.
In my rear-view ‘mom mirror’, I catch a glimpse of Sophia, the quintessential teenager with chords draped from her ears, unconcernedly navigating other passengers. ‘This way to our gate, Mom,’ advises 12 year-old Lydia even before I have made that determination. Lexi responsibly updates our ‘flight delayed status’ to her dad waiting for us in the States and 10 year-old Jenna is unfazed when she finds she will be sitting in a seat alone, 12 rows from her closest family member.
Long ago, Jay and I realized that travel with children could be traumatic or it could be fun but the only constant was the fact that it would be a frequent part of our lives. When we wrapped our minds around that fact, we initiated the ‘you pack it, you carry it’ rule. They were that toddler traipsing through airports with the noisy-wheeled case. Training to fly solo began early.
As I anticipate these next years, I think traveling with toddlers prepared us for more than just a cross-Atlantic journey. It taught us something good about parenthood. Our job is to prepare these precious babies for release. Independance is never a product of over-protection. Let them pack their bags and noisily roll them along, it will not take long for them to blossom into traveling companions. Bon voyage.
In fact, they began packing their own suitcases