I anticipated that when we told people we were taking our 10-month old daughter to Colombia that we’d get push back. Perhaps its because the New York Times insisted its a place to visit this year, or everyone has just accepted our tendency to lean towards lesser visited destinations, but overall the reactions have been mostly enthusiastic. A few questions as to “why” sure, but no objections. A fair amount of people had been themselves, leading me to wonder why we haven’t considered it before. As we geared up to travel for the first time with a mobile baby I’d been thinking a lot about balance with children. How we balance caring for their needs and our own. How we love and protect them, but not shelter them. How we continue to live our lives, while respecting their needs.
I think about this a fair amount, outside the realm of travel. In my day to day I see parents yelling “no! don’t do that” or “be careful!” because we love these kiddos and don’t want to see them get hurt. We would probably say we do this out of love. But I don’t know that that’s true. Because I think love is selfless, and our yelling “be careful! I don’t want you to fall!” is not selfless. It is us we are protecting as well, it is our attachment to our kids. We view ourselves as their protectors, but sometimes forget they are their own people. They are in this world to experience it, just like we are. The good, the painful, all of it. Of course, we cannot let a newly walking baby amble towards a staircase and expect them not to fall down. That isn’t what I’m talking about, that is clear. But the more ambiguous calls; do you take them to a country where they might get sick, or hurt? How much risky play do I let them engage in? These are the harder calls. I don’t want her to grow up fearful of the world. I want her to respect danger, and think critically, but to take leaps and risks and live a life not ruled by fear because growing up all she heard was “don’t do that, it’s dangerous.” But it starts with us. I think we will always have worry, or fear that something might happen to her. I don’t think you can squash that voice. But I hope we can not let it rule us, and to trust our daughter when the time is right. And, to let her fall. To be there to ease her pain, whether physical or emotional, but to let her navigate her own growth. Not stifle it.
So we took our daughter to Colombia. We checked with her pediatrician. We stayed in places that were comfortable for her (and us), we brought antibiotics (which we didn’t need), we didn’t give her street ceviche. And? It was fine, in fact one of the least eventful trips we’ve ever taken (everything went shockingly smoothly). We’re playing the long game here anyway. We have years and years of adventures ahead of us with her. I hope she develops a love for travel and adventure. That when she’s older we’ll explore the far corners of this earth together. That we can teach her how to be smart and savvy in unfamiliar places so that she can be confident anywhere in the world. That she will gain compassion and understanding of the vast differences our cultures have. And to embrace others, not be fearful of them. And perhaps it will rub off in the (often) most difficult place to be a young person-school. I hope these trips engrain somewhere in her, that travel will feel natural to her. That we can set good examples of calm in handling the unexpected that travel always throws at you. I know that at some point on a trip she will get sick, or hurt, or angry, or sad. And I will hate myself for putting her in that situation. But I hope I can remember it’s all part of life, and that aside from big dangers, my impulse to protect her isn’t always a positive thing.
Her new found mobility is our first real experience with this. We are trying to balance removing threats that are not age appropriate (like, say, knives) while giving her freedom to explore and chose where she goes and what she engages with. It can be hard sometimes not to direct her. I imagine this will be a lifelong challenge. But goodness is this a fun age! The mobility has us on our toes, she’s now vocal about what she disapproves of, shows interest in so much of her world and interacts with it. She loves being around other kids and just wants to explore. She lit up anytime she met another kiddo traveling. Plus Colombia made it easy-the people were so kind and generous towards her. One waitress even offered to hold her while we ate. People got up to offer us seats, or usher us through expedited lines. They welcomed her (and us) everywhere. We never once felt unsafe. We spent our week wander the two cities (Cartagena and Medellin), eating all the food, going to castles, museums and national parks. We kept a relaxed pace and tried to make sure she slept in the hotel for one of her two naps, the other in the Ergo. We didn’t move around much, choosing two cities in one week. She did amazing, aside from a bit more wrangling the flights were fine and she was in a good mood most of the time, or about similar to home. There was so much to look at too, though her favorite thing seemed to be pigeons…
So far its been my favorite age to travel with her. People keep saying “just wait until she’s a bit older! It’ll be so much harder.” They’ve been saying that since three months old and so far the opposite has been true. Granted, she isn’t walking, but I can see how that would also have its benefits. Basically, like all stages of baby/childhood there are new, different challenges, and we’ll just try our best to roll with them.
The hardest part was how short the trip is, which is our current situation for a while. But it’s temporary and for now I’ll just enjoy what we can do while day dreaming about the longer adventures we’ll get to take as a family in the future! Country number 4 for Wren, 57 for me!
Up next: Solo trip to Toronto to visit friends in early October!