Getting Out of Dodge

A friend of mine recently told me some advice she received when her four children were small: "Take lots of trips," she said, "because once they grow up, that's all you will remember about their childhood."

We talked and laughed about the truth of the idea, because the days when the chldren are small can turn into a blur of diapering, laundering, feeding, scolding, and picking up after. For us in Kyiv, where it is not at all convenient to get out and about with more than one child at a time and where entertainment if you do make it out is limited to walking around or the occasional indoor playground in winter, planning a trip or two seems like a very good idea.

And yet going on a trip with all the littles in tow (which is really just diapering, laundering, feeding, scolding and picking up after, on the road) is definitely not "vacation." Sometimes it sounds only slightly better than covering oneself with honey and lying down on a fire ant hill.

I guess there is all kinds of memory-making, though, isn't there? Who doesn't have at least one story of chain-reaction barfing in the backseat with the siblings, for example? Those are good times.

So I don't know if trip-taking is the key to remembering my children's childhood, because I also believe that the day-to-day small rituals of home, things that mom or dad "always" do, and the beauty of playing endless and ever-evolving made-up games with brothers and sisters every day create a lot of "remember how..." and "remember when..." conversations for years to come.

But trips really are a highlight of family life to me, and something I want to give my children. I have trip-planning in my blood - my grandpa was a lover of maps and a planner of roadtrips and a seeker of small adventures. He loved to chart things out and share the details of his plans. I loved seeing what he had up his sleeve and the twinkle in his eye as he talked about going somewhere or having been somewhere. And he always liked listening about my travels.

My husband loves to do research and find deals. We've worked out a system in which we decide the dates and place we want to go, then he finds the best way to get there, where we're going to stay, and how to get about while we're there. I work out the day-by-day details - what we'll wear (that's big when you have kids - they can't think through that yet!), what we'll see and do each day. Together, we've had some pretty amazing times already with our brood: at the beach, in and around D.C., trekking across the U.S. to Colorado, not to mention Egypt, Munich for Christmas, and London. We haven't seen as much of Ukraine and our current hometown as I would like, but we'll work that out this summer.

Right now, I've got to get out of Kyiv before my memories of this time turn grey. Not grey from fading mental capacity, but grey from the literally grey and schizophrenic weather, grungy cityscapes, and serious cabin fever. And before I start making less than pleasant memories for my children while attempting to keep them from going as berzerk as I feel.

We settled on Portugal as our escape this spring. We were originally supposed to go in late February, but it didn't happen because of work obligations, so we had to wait six extra weeks. I started thinking that getting away from winter in April was pointless since it would be all but over here, but that one thing has cooperated: four inches of snow fell night before last and it's coming down again right now. So by the time we make it out, we will be good and ready for someplace warm.

By all accounts, Portugal is Europe's best kept secret. There's a little bit of everything: beaches and the sea, caves and diving, amazing old cities, fishing villages, medieval castles and remnants of the Moors. Lots of Latin color and sunshine and delicious food. And they like big families.

It makes me feel good just thinking about it. I'm reading and marking my guidebooks and choosing a good mix of kid-friendly ways to pass the day. Perhaps at least the planning of trips while the children are small is therapeutic and memorable: it is sure helping me hang in there!

Do you have a fun travel memory from when you were little? Have you packed your kids up and gone anywhere recently? What are your strategies for traveling with littles?


LeesOnTheGo said...

Portugal! Wow! Just saying the name feels so warm & exotic! Hope you all have a wonderful time. No travel tips (at least not any that you haven't thought of on your own...as a mom of 4 you're the more likely one to give out ideas). Just hope you have a terrific time.

Christine said...

I am going to send you an email about a place in Portugal. My father was a lot like your grandpa. It's so great to pass that kind of thing along to the kids. I just took my two older boys to Dubai so they could ski. They felt really excited about flying on the airplane again and I was excited because this is the beginning of what I've been dreaming of as a mother. Getting to go on big kid trips and do big kid things and not have to worry about diapers and naps. It was so fun and easy.