We just landed in Quebec City, after our 7 week journey in Asia. It’s past midnight, and we are all exhausted, but somehow, Emma-Kate just found inside herself a new source of energy. She is overexcited! She is running around the airport, singing. Clinton and myself just want to get a taxi and go home. It’s -15°C outside… it’s freezing cold! We are only wearing hoodies, and have to walk in the snow with our shoes. We are in line to get a taxi, and just when a car shows up to pick us up, Emma-Kate starts to cry: ‘I want to go in a tuk-tuk!’.
Traveling with kids can be tiring, I have to admit. This is no peaceful vacation. So why do I think parents who don’t travel with their kids are selfish?
First, I am not talking here about parents who desperately need a relaxing vacation to reconnect with his or her spouse. Everyone needs a vacation now and then, even our kids! And I am not talking about people who don’t have the money or the means to travel with their kids.
I want to address parents who are able to travel, but choose not to do so with their beloved children, for 1 or both of these reasons. First, they don’t want to travel around the world with their kids, because they are scared, or they don’t think they will ‘remember the trip’, or else. Second, they prefer to travel without them.
Why do I think you are being selfish? Because the benefits of traveling with our children exceed by far the inconveniences.
What are the benefits of traveling with our kids?
Quantity and Quality Time
The most precious thing we can give to our children, is our time. Time is the most valuable thing in our society, and we often forget that. Our kids want toys and a lot of other things. But what they might not be telling us, is that in fact they want us to spend time with them. Spending time with our children, normal time and quality time, is the best gift we can give them.
And it is the best gift we can give ourselves! One advice parents of older children always give young families is that time goes by so fast! We have to appreciate and enjoy the time we have together, now! Our toddlers are growing fast, becoming kids, then teenagers. And then it’s too late! If we don’t take the time now to be with our children, we will regret it later!
Why am I talking about spending time with our children? I found out that traveling together is mostly spending time together. When we take a vacation at home, we have stuff to do around the house, we have friends we want to see, chores to do. So even when we are together on vacation, at home, it doesn’t mean we will spend that much time together. But when we are traveling to a foreign country, we usually stay together all the time. We eat together, sleep together, walk together, play together. Besides some rare occasions when one family member will do something on his own, like playing golf, we are spending all our time together, as a family. This is the most precious time of all!
And not only we are spending a huge amount of time together, we are also experiencing a lot of new things together, learning together. These priceless moments will turn into very precious memories that can be cherished by everyone for the rest of their lives!
During that same trip, Clinton used to say to Emma-Kate, everyday: ‘Daddy will not go to work today, sweetie. Daddy will stay with Emma-Kate all day!‘. When she heard those words, she smiled like never before.
In a kid’s life, when is it that they can spend all their awake and sleeping time with both parents, for a long period of time? When traveling together.
That brings me to the second benefit.
When we are at home, Emma-Kate is usually asking for me. And when Clinton gets back home from work, sometimes she’s being difficult with him, like if she wants to tell him he abandoned her during the day. On the other hand, during our trip, she drew closer to Clinton. She had a better attitude, was cuddling more with him and they really bonded a lot. None of it would have happened if we didn’t spend that much time together.
It is said that our children’s bond with us, parents, takes years to develop completely and will change their personality and life forever. According to Raising Children:
Lots of time spent playing, talking, listening and interacting with you helps your child learn the skills she needs for life, like communicating, thinking, solving problems, moving and being with other people and children.
Don’t you want the deepest bond with your child? Spending a lot of quality time with them is one of the best ways to develop that kind of bond, so that our kids become mature and stable individuals.
Again, according to Raising Children:
In the first five years of life, your child’s brain develops more and faster than at any other time in his life. The early experiences your child has – the things he sees, hears, touches, smells and tastes – stimulate his brain, creating millions of connections. This is when foundations for learning, health and behaviour throughout life are laid down.
So your child needs a stimulating environment with lots of different activities that give him plenty of ways to play and learn, and lots of chances to practise what he’s learning.
That brings me back to the episode in the first paragraph. Emma-Kate knows now there are other ways of transportation than cars and buses. She knows she has to keep her arms inside the trailer of a tuk-tuk if she doesn’t want to be hit by a car. She knows that not all kids have as many toys as she has. She knows what real curry tastes like, and she now knows she doesn’t like Sri Lankan tea. She knows how to communicate when we don’t speak the same language. She learnt a lot of things during our trip, and even if she won’t remember those things when she will grow up, they will still have shaped her personality.
I don’t want my little girl to think that people different from her are strange. Because she was the strange one in Asia, and people liked her anyway. And I want her to be proud of herself later, and of us too, when she will look at pictures of herself or videos of her swimming with turtles, trying salmon coconut or riding a motorcycle.
I said that those who choose not to travel with their children are being selfish. Selfish because they put their comfort before their kids and families’ bonding experiences. Because they are more scared that something bad happens to them, than happy their children will grow to be a better world citizen.
By the way, while we were on our trip in Asia, we’ve never been afraid she would be kidnapped. Meanwhile, back home, there were 2 kidnapping attempts at the mall where we usually go shopping. So bad things happen everywhere, even at home!
Why put your life on hold and not travel because of your kids? Because they won’t remember? I don’t remember what I ate two days ago, but I still have to eat every day! Traveling, experiencing new things and spending a lot of quality time with our children is as important to them as it is to eat. So please don’t take that away from them. Stop thinking about how tiring it might be to travel with them, stop thinking only bad things will happen, just stop thinking too much! And please stop thinking only about yourself, because if it was only up to them, they would choose to spend countless days with only you, playing together and trying new things.
Don’t stop traveling because you now have children. And please start traveling because you now have children. Either way, it will be the greatest gift to give to both of you!