It has been an interesting journey. Like parenting in general, there’s always something to take you by surprise. Those WTF moments.
For me, parenting is an ongoing battle of learning to let go of expectations. As much as possible. Easier said than done. We all have them. With every relationship.
Parenting is learning as you go. Often I feel I’m alone, flailing around, feeling like a failure. Wondering what I should be doing differently. If anything. The beauty of blogging is you discover you’re not alone. Other people go through it. Some just don’t say.
I’ve always travelled abroad with a partner. Or friend. Or family. This is my first big trip overseas with my boy. I’ve had a crash course in how to see the world through the eyes of a seven year old. Here’s a few lessons I’ve learned along the way.
1. He’ll get culture shock. And so will you. I didn’t factor this in much. Why would I, I’ve travelled to Asia heaps. It’s different when you are responsible for someone elses emotions and well-being. When a little being is totally dependent on you to take control. But you don’t feel in control. You feel overwhelmed. A bit lost. Best way to help combat that is to book a decent, if not plush, hotel out of the main hustle for the first night or two. We moved hotels after the first night as the Old Quarter in Hanoi and the three-star hotel gave my boy no respite. Moving to a hotel with a pool by the lake, only a five minute walk from the bustling Old Quarter worked a treat. International TV is a must. Those little minds need some familiarity and time out to absorb and process.
2. It’s all about the pool. It is. My boy is obsessed. After breakfast, in the pool. When we’re out it’s about when we’re returning to the pool. We’ve spent A LOT of time around the pool. Though, it’s not such a bad place to be. Especially with an afternoon beer.
3. He’ll whinge about exploring. My carefree travel days consisted of wandering new streets. Stopping for a coffee. Exploring temples and ancient sites. Stopping for a beer. Well, they’re gone. They don’t fit into a seven-year-old’s itinerary. It’s super hot here. We start walking. Within five minutes there are complaints. He’s hot. He’s tired (though not too tired for the pool). He wants to go back to the hotel. So I hired a scooter. Which is loads of fun, and yeah, a bit scary. That way exploring is more exciting. And I can get in a bit of walking. With some bribery. Doing an organised day trip or half day trip is good, too. We did a cooking, farming, fishing day which was brilliant. He loved it. We’re doing a half-day motorbike tour tomorrow.
4. It’s all about the mini bar. God, it’s just so exciting. All those tempting chocolates and biscuits and chips. Sometimes you forget what truly excited you as a kid. You get quickly reminded when you enter a room with a mini bar packed with treats. Allow for this. Factor in one or two treats. I took my boy to the local mini market and we got some other treats that were cheaper. And it was fun checking out the local products.
5. ‘He’s missing out on school!’ Yeah, but he’s seven. It’s two weeks. It’s an education he won’t get at home. We didn’t bring any official homework. Instead we’ve been reading signs together. Worked out maps. Counted in a foreign currency, worked out exchange rates. Practised a new language. We have met new people. Found out about their countries. Neuroscience claims travelling is great for your mind.
6. It’s a lot of one-on-one time. Get some time out. I made sure I got a room with a balcony. At the end of the day I can sit outside. Inhale a bit of me time. Screen time is a must. Just that hour or two at the end of the day. You both need to chill. No late night’s out at bars partying anymore. I bought a bottle of duty-free vodka and have a glass with soda and coconut water on the balcony. It’s divine. It’s essential.
7. It’s a big journey together. While my boy and I have spent many years on our own, travelling is another thing altogether. We have huge amounts of time together. Chewing the fat. Tackling the hard questions: ‘Sometimes I think you don’t love me.’ ‘Why’s that?’ ‘Because you get cranky at me and then my brain thinks you don’t like me.’ Silence. ‘Sometimes you don’t listen to mummy and you are rude. I think you don’t like me.’ ‘But I DO, mummy.’ ‘That’s right, and even if I get cranky, because everyone does, I always love you.’ We have to deal with each other’s moods, each other’s reactions. We experience it together. We are both just people. With different perspectives.
It has been big. It has been challenging. It has been real. It has been bonding.
It has been all about one thing.