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may 02

Family Travel: 3 moms share stories

Here are few amusing excerpts from a new anthology, How to Fit a Car Seat on a Camel and Other Misadventures Traveling with Kids.

For the record, I am fairly certain that one of our wedding vows included

a promise to never fly across the country (any country) with the hypothetical fruit of our union during peak travel times. My husband, Steve, does not remember it this way, but I have a clear recollection of swearing that we would never become two of those poor souls we had so often pitied during our seven years of child-free travel. From the safety of the airport bar we would watch the traveling families barrel past: harried, hurried, and weighed down.…

"No way," I remember saying. "We will resist. We will blaze new paths and forge new traditions. We will restrict our travel to balmy months like May and September and we will only fly on Tuesday afternoons. We will not bring everything we own to entertain a five-month-old baby on a ninety-minute flight. We will not distract the busy steward (who is, after all, just there for our safety) with instructions on how to microwave the child's soy milk for exactly 33 seconds at 75 percent power because he only will drink it hot but not too hot.…"

Thus spoke the prechild me.

Steve and I now have one son, Patrick, and he has spent every major holiday since his birth in 2002 lovingly surrounded by extended family despite the fact that we live at least eight hundred miles from our nearest relatives. How did this happen, you wonder? We schlepped him to them. What about my vow, you ask?

"Just tell them," I would hiss at my husband as he picked up the phone to discuss another upcoming holiday with his family. "Just say it. Say we'll see them the following week. Say we'll come the month before. Be strong. Offer a tempting selection of alternate dates. Just..."

"Dad!" my husband would say. "So, um, we were thinking about maybe not flying in for Thanksg— Oh. Oh, sure. Of course. Right! Of course! Great! We're looking forward to it! See you then!"

Five seconds into the call and his father would clear his throat or something, at which moment my husband would fold like an origami crane. Every. Single. Time. And then there we would be again, buying airline tickets with a seasonal markup best calculated by NASA and realizing that there is a very good reason why people travel by the millions on those busy dates: ancestral

guilt.

—From Julia Litton's story, "Consider Atlanta."

***

Over the span of a four-hour car trip, my husband can sing the so-called "ABCB Spider" song exactly four hundred and eighty-eight times. Figuring it takes twenty-three seconds to sing one round of the Spider, approximately one and a half seconds for a two-year-old to say, "ABCB Spider again?," and four seconds for my husband to sigh, roll his eyes, and resume singing, that works out to four hundred and eighty-eight times over the span of two hundred and forty minutes. I should know. I did the math. I also took the trip.….

To be fair, though, we didn't sing the "ABCB Spider" song the entire way. We also sang the more traditionally known ABC song, both to the original tune and to the snazzy, jazzed-up version made popular by LeapFrog. We sang "I'm a Little Teapot." We sang "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." We sang "Old MacDonald's Farm," complete with a full complement of entities on said farm that neither God nor nature ever intended.

"Had a farm E-I-E-I-O again?" the songmistress trills from the backseat, interrupting the train of thought steaming through my mind, full speed ahead toward the academic conference at which I'm going to present on a panel tomorrow. My husband sighs and rolls his eyes, catching mine. "Old MacDonald had a farm," we obediently sing out. "E-I-E-I-O!" I wonder what's going to land on Old MacDonald's farm this time—we've already exhausted all the normal farm animals, zoo animals, and every single animal featured on Baby Noah, including the wombat. (For the record, the wombat makes a ticka-ticka sound, here, there, and everywhere.)…"

—From Elrena Evans's story, "Traveling Songs".

****

Traveling with a child is like having the common cold. Everyone offers advice. "Bring a stroller" and "Whatever you do, don't use the stroller." "Don't go in December, too hot." "Only go in December; otherwise it is far too cold for children!" Everyone has a tip, even if they have not been to the place you will be traveling, even if they don't have kids themselves.

Laos, like most Southeast Asian countries still holds a strong association of war for many Americans. It is not exactly a typical holiday to take with a two-year old in tow. But…we were looking forward to it… We were particularly looking forward to … Luang Prabang, of which our trusty copy of the Lonely Planet said, "the city's mix of gleaming temple roofs, crumbling French provincial architecture and multiethnic inhabitants tends to enthrall even the most jaded travelers."…

Luang Prabang is indeed an enchanted place. We were also getting into the traveling groove and started to feel the benefits of traveling together as a family. For one we were up before all the tourists who stayed up late drinking cheap cocktails and falling in and out of love at the hostels. We saw pristine waterfalls at dawn and could imagine ourselves prehistoric and pure without the constant company of camera flashes. Luc was an instant celebrity wherever we went. Everyone from old women to teenage boys came up to pinch his pink cheeks, rub his curly blond hair and offer him sweets and fruit. Through Luc, we were able to connect with people who would otherwise never have given us the time of day….We were part of the universal equation of family, something that transcends the vast gaps of language and culture…"

—From Willow King's story, "Laos with Lucien."

EXCERPTS COURTESY OF How to Fit a Car Seat on a Camel and Other Misadventures Traveling with Kids (Seal Press; $16)

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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