We have always travelled with the boys. We didn't have the option of leaving the kids with our parents during our year in Germany, since we were on our own. This was the year we travelled to different countries in Europe, and of course, the boys came along too. That aside, we never considered leaving the kids behind whenever we went on a trip. They always came along, despite all the additional baggage and diapers we had to lug along with us.
|When we arrived at our home in Germany, tired and laden with lots and lots of baggage.|
Going overseas with little ones really makes you change your perceptions and ideals of travel. A good day is one where you get to do a little sight-seeing, without having to step out of a museum because someone was throwing a tantrum. Most times, we aim to try local cuisine. However, you don't really get to savour the flavours, because you have one or two mouths to feed, or a baby to nurse or rock to sleep. I remember the time Junior J threw a massive tantrum after dinner at a cafe, and I had to literally drag him out while the other Parisans gaped at this (supposedly tiger) mum dealing with her badly behaved son.
Shopping is tough, because you spend more time preventing little hands from breaking something, than really looking at stuff to buy. Some days, you blunder through a museum with a toddler, trying to take it all in, while pushing a pram and digging in your bag for something that some kid needs. You learn to nurse the baby anywhere: in the car, on a bench in the park, at a seat in the museum, while you try to avoid the eyes of both the security guard as well as the general in the painting in front of you. You collapse into your hotel bed at the end of the day, shoulders aching from carrying a baby the whole day, your mind exhausted from all the parenting you had to do while travelling.
Yet, we still choose to travel with them. I guess it is because we like to journey as a family. And there are all these sweet, shared moments that are extra special simply because you are in a foreign land. I love seeing their delight in new experiences: the first time splashing at the beach after spending a long time being bundled up from the cold, spotting a real life okapi at the zoo, picking daisies and seeing garden after garden of tulips ablaze in every colour conceivable.
And while mealtimes can be stressful affairs with hurriedly gulped lunches, there is also the fun in letting them try new dishes, and discovering their fondness for certain foods: Junior J for mussels (which he insists on only eating the female ones), Lil J for baguette, and both boys for fragrant ripe peaches (which they fight over).
Happiness is also multiplied when shared: being able to see sculptures or paintings that we have only read of in books, sitting in a garden that has been painted onto canvases that grace the walls of museums, finding wild blackberries and trying them.
So while I dread packing for trips, I love travelling with the kids. I can't imagine going overseas without them. I am so thankful for all the opportunities we've had to travel with them everywhere, from mission trips and exploring Europe, to visits back to Penang.
Recently, the hubby came home and told me he was supposed to attend a conference overseas. And he asked me to come along, but without the older boys (baby has to follow me, since he only latches direct and I am his walking milk source).
My first instinct was to say no. While the hubby has travelled a few times alone for work, I have never been away from the kids except for the nights I was in hospital to give birth! How could I go without them? But we discussed, and talked to my parents, and I decided I would go along.
So for the first time in my life as a mum, I will be travelling without the two older boys. I admit I am worried, especially with all the recent happenings, and I keep wondering if it is a good idea at all, since I probably would be spending most of the day in the apartment for baby J's naps. In the end, I talked to a good friend, who gently reminded me that our times are in God's hands, and there is nothing to fear.
So today, I am thankful. For the times we have explored the world as a family. For the times we could travel with the boys, tasting new foods, and being awed by God's wonderful creation. And I am thankful that when we take this trip without them, they would be in good hands, and we too would be in good hands, the loving hands of our Heavenly Father.
Also, I am reminded that life is simple. We only need to focus on the time that is given to us, because everything else is beyond our control, and it makes no sense to worry about something we cannot do anything about:
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"
- Matthew 6:25-27
"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I,"said Gandalf," and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
So we journey on. And we keep praying.
What are you thankful for today?