The author's family at Navy Pier
I'll be the first to admit that the thought of taking my 2-year-old anywhere other than the grocery store gives me a mild amount of anxiety. Even relatively simple jaunts to museums and the grandparents' houses require a ridiculous amount of planning, packing, and forethought, and quite frankly, sometimes I just don't want to be bothered. Yet, despite all the baggage that traveling with a toddler comes with (literally and figuratively), I strongly believe that people should take their kids on vacation as far away and as often as possible.
Look, I know that my son isn't really going to get a whole lot out of a trip to Disney World or Jamaica. Chances are he won't even remember it 10 years from now when he becomes a surly and brooding teenager playing with whatever gadget is trendy. It doesn't matter that it won't be a lifelong memory. While some people see it as a waste of time, I see something totally different.
He won't remember or appreciate how excited he became when he rode a roller coaster for the first time or how he jumped and squealed to see his favorite characters from TV in real life, but I will. Taking kids places, while arguably important for them, is also special to the parents. I love watching him explore and challenge himself with new surroundings while getting so joyful about something that he's crying, and these are memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, even if he will likely forget.
Telling a family not to travel until the kids are old enough to appreciate it is a hallmark of entitlement.
Telling a family not to travel until the kids are old enough to appreciate it is a hallmark of entitlement. From that perspective, only the opinions of the children matter and the parents should quietly wait for their kids to mature to the point where travel becomes more easy. Following this advice, as a parent, I would not get to travel to interesting places for at least another decade, trapped by my child's limited age.
Of course, I could always drop him off at one of his grandparents' or aunt's houses, but that puts so much pressure on the extended family. Besides the restrictive burden that forcing family members to watch my 2-year-old, I'm hesitant to do that because, surprise surprise, I like hanging out with him. As much as flying to a new country and pretending that my husband and I are carefree travelers without children back home, we're just not, and I'm ok with that.
We are currently planning a trip to Poland with my husband's family so we can see where my father-in-law grew up and are planning on bringing our son. This will likely be the only time that our family will get to travel together and my son will get to be in his heritage country with his Papa, and I am not about to not take him because of his age. He will have photos and fragmented memories as a reminder that he got to do something amazing with people who love him.
The author's son ignoring the Chicago skyline
One of the many things I've learned about children in my time as a parent is that kids might not appreciate things in the way you expect or hope but they do so in their own way. Although I might be hoping that he appreciates the grand architecture of a European capital, he might be most interested in chasing pigeons along the cobblestone street and eating a fresh Paczki from a street vendor. Just because it's not an adult's perspective on traveling doesn't make it any less valuable or real.
If I want my son to be a citizen of the world, I cannot and should not shield him from it. Of course, traveling is expensive and as much as I would like to say that we are planning on taking him anywhere and everywhere, we just can't swing it. However, the vacations that we do take will be special and meaningful to each of us in our own unique way. The cost of travel is prohibitive enough without having to factor in whether or not some stranger is judging me from the airplane terminal just because we are deciding to take our son on an adventure.
As often as I can afford it, we are taking our son on trips because everyone deserves a little vacation, even if the memories won't last a lifetime.