If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I am married and we have four children. People often ask what that’s like – as if I can offer some kind of easy to digest answer. It’s like answering questions about what it’s like to be color-blind. I don’t know normal seeing looks like, so it’s hard to compare, but it’s what I know.
At any rate. People are often amazed that we have traveled so much with four children. We’ve lived abroad for a year too. The comments of awe and amazement come fast and swift. “How did you do that?” “Are you crazy for traveling with four children?” and of course “I could never do that!”
I don’t think people really want to know the details of how – the details are boring. Yes, we are a bit crazy for traveling abroad with four children. So what? Normal means staying put and having everything nice and neat and orderly and well, dull. Where’s the fun in that? And who learns anything that way? And yes, you’re right, you could never do that because you aren’t willing to let go of control and take a leap of faith. But you could.
My wife and I love to travel and experience new things and cultures. We had decided long ago that our children would not be a hindrance. What’s the point of having children if you aren’t going to include them in the things you love? Instead, why not add them in and increase the enjoyment with more people.
That’s not to say that traveling with four children is easy. It’s not. But we determined that traveling with four children was far more important to us than allowing any of the challenges to get in the way of what we love.
And besides, there are advantages to traveling with four children. People move out of the way when your horde is approaching – they don’t want to get run over.
Sometimes you get discounts. Heck, you are practically eligible for a group discount.
You get way better doing research on where to go. Going anywhere with six people means that time and money become really important. No, you don’t get to do all the cool expensive things that your single or just married or married with one get to do. But you find the odd things that few others decide to do. You find the obscure things that give you a great sense of the place where you are visiting. It takes time, but it’s worth it.
Speaking of this – you sometimes get to go to places that you wouldn’t go to by yourself as an adult. I don’t like amusement parks, but my wife does. She rides all the rides. If it were just me an her, the chances are slim that we’d be going to amusement parks, or at least not as often. With four children, you can almost guarantee that we hit an amusement part here and there. The kids love it, and she’s happy. I enjoy seeing them love it.
You get to see life through the eyes of a child. They ask questions. Questions you wouldn’t think of. And you get to answer as best you can. Some questions are mundane and easy. Other questions leave us all knowing that we just don’t know the answer – they might not be an answer. This is especially true when we visit monuments and locations where something tragic happened. Seeing life through the eyes of a child keeps us open to possibility and asking questions.
You get really good at resolving conflict and disagreements. And even better at figuring out ways to let the children figure out how to resolve those conflicts and disagreements for themselves. If we had to resolve every single conflict, we’d go insane. And they wouldn’t learn how to do it themselves.
So the next time you see us out and about traveling (and by us, I mean any family that you consider large), don’t offer amazement or question their sanity. Instead, look at your own life and ask yourself this – what are the excuses I’m using to stay put? Get going. See the world. Learn something. Get out from behind the TV screen and live. You’ve only got so much time. Go travel. And if you have children – all the better. They aren’t excuses to keep you home. They are people who help you experience the travel.