Traveling with kids is akin to traveling with an amplifier. Everything is doubled, trebled, quadrupled. The highs become that much higher; the lows, abysmal. When the kids enchant with their winsomeness, the world simply glows; when the bucking, back arching, tantrums are slipped upon by the children, viscous pools of embarrassment drown me in their heat.
The slight eyebrow arches of the abuelas as they glance upon my writhing, contorted, furiously screaming, scarlet-faced and frothing small child, then at me, admonishing, "what did you do to that poor small baby?"
Then at hostels, the common areas occupied by the hip young travelers, casually slung over low chairs, earnestly reading up on the next leg of their adventure. Smoking. Thin. With the eager wonder of those new at this, liberally laced with a pulsing desire to appear in the know. They immerse themselves in their talk, their cigarettes, streams of smoke flowing from them, they flick their dreadlocks from their shoulders as they adjust their tiny laptops upon the tables.
They freeze at the sound of my baby's howls, they look deeply uncomfortable. As my baby bellows ever on, her screeches hitting notes of undiluted rage, they shake their heads and I suddenly remember how it felt to be them, young and so sure of certain things -- like how I would raise my unborn children. My children would never scream like that, never scream in a public place either. My children would know better.
I knew more about all this at 17, it seems, than I do now.
I suppose that when the sum of it all is added, the negative about traveling as we are with a 3 year old and a 1 year old is that we are always on. Parenting while out and about is truly a 24/7 piece, far more so than at home. I cannot plunk the kids in front of something 'educational,' pull the baby gates down and do the the dishes as happens at home. Doing the dishes here and now requires one parent doing them and the other consciously watching both kids.
There are things like glass in the sand here. There are bits on the ground that I'd need to run to an emergency room for if my baby put them -- as she does all found objects -- into her mouth. There are stingrays in the shallows. Playgrounds are often missing key pieces like a bridge or a step or a bolt/nut; they are configured differently than we are used to, the slides are often far more slippery, so much so that I saw a child slide right off of one and onto the waiting concrete ground, wailing with her struck, bleeding nose.
But those are the negatives and when held against the light of the positive, they diminish to pale shadows, nearly unseen.
The positives: seeing my 3 year old greet each and every person walking toward us with a perky, "hola!" and calling "adios!" after them as they pass, all the while my 1 year old strains to reach out her hand and touch people, connect. And seeing the happy grins of the Mexicans as they respond to my children -- touching their heads in loose caresses of affection, chatting with them, exclaiming over their beauty and yes, kissing my Baby. Mexicans really seem to love them some baby.
My boy gets visibly excited with ceviche, tamales, Mexican hot dogs, fish tacos, jamaica. With the small rituals we create in our life, such as going to the bakery here, he loves the pieces like selecting his bread with the tongs. He loves to roll the sounds of "alto" around in his mouth, adores mariachi.
In turn, I love the process of teaching him by example, that "normal" is only in how you live it, that at 3 his "normal" is full of a freedom that I keenly remember from my own young childhood of living on a sheep ranch, running naked in the wind, feeling the power that my small body absorbed and exuded from the elements.
I believe these are powerful life lessons, these gifts of the teaching of "normal," of exposure to different ways of living a life. Lessons that mean more to me than most words could convey.