Recently I took my almost three-year-old granddaughter on a five-day trip to Florida. You wouldn’t think that this would have been such a big deal, but I have gotten lots of comments and questions sounding suspiciously like, “Why would you do such a thing?”
On trams at airports, in rental car shuttles and waiting in the airport people would stop and say, “What a cute little girl (and she is) and then make some comment to the effect that I must be transporting her home or some such thing.
When I’d say, “No we’re on an adventure for five days,” I’d get incredulous looks. I’m sure my silver hair and clearly Grandmother status (although I prefer the Nana moniker) make some wonder if I was crazy.
No, I wasn’t and I had a wonderful time. These questions prompted me to think about why I would travel with such a young child. This blog addresses my thoughts. But before I go into that, I must come clean. Two and a half of those days, I had a buddy to help. Maddy and I visited a long time and special friend in Florida. It takes a village, the cliché goes, and traveling at my age with such a small child. It’s true. We had a grand time.
But on to the benefits and reasons for my adventure.
1. I want my grand children to know me and to know my passion for seeing the world. It hit me when we were driving from Orlando to New Symrna Beach and listening to the CD that Madelyn’s Mommy so thoughtful provided. The song, “The Bear went over the Mountain” came on and as I belted out the words with Maddy singing along in her car seat, I had one of those, “Of course. This is what it is all about. The bear went over the mountain…….to See what he could See.”
That’s a bit of how I feel about travel. I want to see what is on the other side of the mountain. I have a curiosity that won’t quit or “ants in my pants” as one friend described it… and I’d love to instill some of that fascination in the next generation of our family.
2.Traveling with a small child is a Zen type experience for me. Hah! You say, this sounds crazy, but its not. For someone like me who has a penchant for lists, calendars, organizing and endless planning, being with a small child is a total “in the moment” experience. No multi-tasking or thinking about what we’re doing next week Thursday.
For one thing, I have a main mission of keeping this child safe. I have to keep total focus on where she is, what she is eating, touching or doing. Will have no lost child, choking on strange objects or inappropriate encounters with strangers on my watch. Keeps me totally in the moment.
The other Zen like experience is sharing the total absorption with things I might take for granted and not stop to look at. For example, Madelyn became fascinated with the foam on the beach, manipulating it for at least ten minutes.
She cautiously dropped sand and water on it to see what would happen, drew designs in the sand around it and then confidently stamped her little feet to make it mostly go away. Once her curiosity was satisfied, off down the beach she skipped.
3. I loved seeing the world through her eyes. The questions were fun and I loved explaining the simplest of things. Like, walking down the hall of our big hotel and seeing the newspapers laying outside the door. I explained to her that this meant all these people in the rooms were still sleeping (good reason for keeping our voices low). On the way back after breakfast she observed that many of those people were now up because so many of the papers were gone.
“True, but we still don’t get to be noisy in the hall,” I responded.
Or the when the “room service” arrived—huge blessing to me after a full day of travel and total concentration. Her eyes doubled in size when she saw the table being wheeled in and marveled at a small vase of flowers nestled in between our plates of burgers.
4. Probably the best part of the experience was getting to know our little sweet heart—her tentativeness, her pure joy in the moment and her happy view of life.
The telling moment was on the first day of travel. We made our two flights, found the luggage, got to the rental car office and got the car. I was handed the car seat and an instruction booklet.
Nope. Not installed.
I struggled for twenty minutes in the dark garage and dark car with Madelyn hopping around, actually behaving very well considering. I finally got the thing jerry rigged and as I buckled her in I sternly said, “Now Madelyn. Nana needs your help. She’s in a strange car, unknown airport and driving to a new hotel. You need to be very quiet.”
She solemnly nodded.
As we made our way through the rental car check out exit and negotiated the confusing airport exit, I hear this little voice from the backseat chirp, “Nana, we’re having fun, aren’t we?”
That says it all.