April was a busy, busy month for us. N and I had a trip planned to Burbank for a long weekend, we had a family trip to Savannah for a week, and we bought and sold a house. I think I was in survival mode there for a bit.
Anyway, a couple of days before N and my trip to Burbank, I read this article on CNN How Young Is Too Young To Travel? I love CNN, but this article fired me up. Maybe it hit home because N and I were getting ready to take our first solo plane trip; if I really want to travel it will be with a child; or I traveled so much as a kiddo and I believe it deeply impacted me.
While trying to uncover the benefit of travel for children and identifying how young is too young, the article barely touches the surface regarding benefits (or the real challenges for that matter) of flying with children. I agree with several of the points in the article including the parent you are on the ground is the same parent you will be in the air and that we should all thank parents who actively try to entertain, engage, and discipline children while in flight. However, it feels shallow. Additionally, it seems directed at those that hate traveling in the company of children and almost suggests we separate people with and without children in all forms of travel. The introduction actually shares and supports a story of a mother being kicked off a plane because she was struggling to control her toddler. Hello, haven’t we all been here?
The thing is, we are talking about kids, and as they are developing and growing they experiment and things aren’t always perfect. Trust me, Seano and I are not passive parents and we always try our best to respect those around us. However, in my eyes, sometimes it’s not good enough because with kids, unexpected meltdowns are just a part of parenting.
So, after reading this article I had a gut feeling that my trip was going to be full of annoyed jerks who barely seemed to tolerate my son and me. I expected lots of eye rolling and irritated foot tapping. Already anxious, this article only made me feel worse. I am so happy to report that my experience was the opposite of what I prepared for.
Not everyone, in fact not anyone, was rude or impatient which gives me hope that the CNN article was more for views and readership than a portrayal of reality. I was so thankful our journey started with the sweetest Delta Flight Attendant named Faye (I have sent Delta a note about our experience). This was the first time I had flown with N alone and the first time he had flown since he could walk. I chose to let N sit on my lap for this trip in effort to save a little money. With extra seats on the flight, Faye asked the gentlemen next to me if he would like another seat. The gentlemen was kind and happy to give up his seat so N and I could have more room. She also offered me all sorts of tips for flying as N continues to grow. Finally, as we exited the plane she made her way to me to assist with our belongings so we could more easily get off the plane. More than anything though, Faye washed away the negative thoughts I had built up getting ready for our trip and gave me a fresh perspective on the experience.
As our trip progressed, I encountered people who politely let me go first, offered their help corralling our things, and provided sweet compliments and kind words. However, we did have some minor bumps so check back for Thursday’s post where I am writing a list of tips for traveling with toddlers and sharing a funny story from our Burbank travels.
In my momma opinion, children benefit from travel…period. Our generation of parents is asked by the media, older generations, and peers to raise the perfect child. Am I supposed to raise this “perfect” child from the confines of my own home where his cries and brief and sporadic tantrums don’t interrupt my fellow travelers? Is there a universe where your dollars are valued more than mine? Do people have so little compassion and patience that they can’t stand the thought of boarding the same plane as a toddler? These questions are shameful but, based on the comments shared in the article, realistic to ask. Anyway, for now, I want to focus on why we DO and WILL travel with N and any future children we’re blessed to have.
Agreeing with some of the other parent passengers interviewed in the article, Seano and I want to expose N to life outside of our neighborhood. Not everyone has a ranch and a mountain in their backyard; these are gifts but not the world’s reality. Taking N to different places also creates new learning environments which allow us to teach him things and offer him fresh experiences for forming his own opinions about why other people and places are unique and wonderful. When we were in Savannah there were turtles and turtle trinkets everywhere. So, by the time we came home he could say “turtle.” It is now my favorite word. The way he says it, the two syllables so sweet and distinct, simply melts my heart. A part of traveling is also learning to have an open mind and and try new things. I pride myself on being open minded. My friends and family would probably tell you they get sick of me saying, “to each their own.” Trying new things outside of our comfort zone gives us confidence and helps us understand what we are really capable of. I studied abroad in Australia in college and I came back a different person. I learned that when I had to, I could count on myself for anything.
History helps us to define who we are and how we got here, lets us learn from our mistakes, and build on the choices that were successful. We want N to see places that help him learn more about our country and his ancestors. I can hardly think of a better to way to tell N stories of our family, country or world’s history, than by having him walk on the soil where important events took place.
Through traveling, we will teach him to value family by introducing him and spending time with ours. We don’t live near all of ours and if we want to spend time together on a regular basis, well then, a plane it is. Actions speak louder than words and simply saying we need to value family is not good enough. He needs to sit around a table with us and see us laugh, love, and cry together. This also goes for friends who become our family. We will teach him the importance of great friendships and to have compassion by being there for friends in times of great need. Sometimes we need each other. Traveling is not always for leisure.
As I have grown older, life is constantly handing me lessons about the importance of being flexible and adaptable. As a planner, this is not always natural for me. Bottom line, I am more comfortable when I’m in control. However, somehow, I’m a really good traveler. Probably because my parents traveled with me from before I can remember. These qualities are important when you enter the world and key to being a mature and progressive adult.
Lastly, I hope traveling helps our son create big dreams. By showing him different places, cultures, environments, and people his imagination can grow and he can see the possibilities that exist. Just the opportunity to know that his little corner isn’t the only corner can let his dreams soar.
As the CNN article mentions, traveling with young children is not always easy on us parents; some would probably say it is actually more difficult on us. It can be tiring, embarrassing, dirty and frustrating. Even though this is the case, we are still willing to do it because we believe there are great benefits. So onward we go, flying the friendly skies.