Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Greetings from: DURHAM

I know that people have traveled with young children, and I know that people have blogged about traveling with young children, but for the life of me, I still can’t figure out how people travel with young children.

In Durham, we were fortunate enough stay with friends of Matthew, a lovely couple, with three young boys, who are themselves lovely. But with the boys, however, the levels of rambunctiousness increase seismically: disaster begets disaster, attention demands more attention, and it’s a wonder that mothers don’t go Medea every day.

As we walked to the Durham Cathedral and tour the old town, my head continually whipped back and forth, trying to keep track of all three boys at once: one ran far ahead down the cobblestone path; behind us, another contemplated a walking stick; and a third clung to my leg like the cutest lamprey ever. The boy looking at the stick then chased after the one running ahead, and I wondered: was I this energetic when I was young? How many circles of Hell did I conjure into being?

I hesitate to say that children will cramp “my style,” because this assumes I have a style of travel outside of sitting at cafes and stopping into CD stores. But there’s that extra consideration of making the trip worthwhile not only for yourself, but for your child. And it’s more than a matter of keeping them ‘entertained’ while you do your adult things -- it’s the balance of keeping everyone’s needs met.

My parents, for example, took me on a European tour when I was nine, and while I don’t remember much of the trip, I wonder now how much they had to concern themselves about me. (As I recall, they needn’t have worried; on the tour bus, I found a Canadian boy about my age, and we got along smashingly.)

Matthew’s friend, who’s doing a year’s sabbatical at Durham University, fobbed off her children onto her husband for a few minutes and snuck us into the faculty lounge at Durham Castle. Inside, a wedding was setting up: the wait staff wheeled in kegs of beer and polished glasses; a young man in a kilt made out with a young woman in a flapper dress; flower girls in diaphanous dresses flitted about on the lawn. But the faculty lounge was blessedly quiet, full of old, dark wood and sealed away, it seemed, from the world. There was a sign-up sheet where you could mark where you took a bottle of soda or a pour of gin.

I know why the room (by extension, travel) exists: everyone needs an escape.

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