Now that we are back from our trip, I am frequented with the question "how was your vacation?", to which I answer A) It was great, but B) I wouldn't call it a vacation.  Let me just get this out of the way now; I hate traveling with my child. 

Setting up.  iPod? check. Snacks? Check. Pillows? Triple check.

Going anywhere with your 3 year old, especially if you are a full time mom, is more akin to a business trip than a vacation. But not all 3 year olds are created equal.  I have seen them, the ones who quietly doddle behind their parents in line for security or slumped in their stroller wistfully gazing at the fluorescent lighting above.  I always wonder what karmic mitzhav their parents had done to earn such peace and sanity.  Meanwhile my child is unhitching all of those retractable belt barriers so they snap like nylon whips, and knocking over the stacks of plastic tubs while the security guards glare at us, the parents of this undisciplined tasmanian devil. Travel and all of it's insane rules and restraints seems to magnify Roan's every mania.  When I can't take it any more I strap him into the stroller where he writhes like a fly caught in a web.  We are not even on the airplane yet.

Pack Mule

It is at this point that I start to contemplate drugs.  For him there are none, unfortunately.  Is it too early for me to dose myself with Xanax?  I am not afraid of flying, per say, but the claustrophobia of knowing that I somehow have to keep my child in a seat for 8 solid hours is terrifying.  My only hope is that he will sleep.

He does not sleep.  Instead Sam and I take exhausted turns trying to keep him in his seat. The brand new high tech entertainment system that equips his seat keeps him occupied for approximately half an hour and then he wants to run laps through the aisles like a lab rat in a maze.  This is our tete-a-tete for the next 7 hours.  Roan wants to move and he is not allowed to.  We try reading to him, giving him food and milk, stickers and matchbox cars.  We put on music and make him a cozy nest on the seats.  He wants to only can-can into the seat in front of him.  

At one point I look up to see Sam and a flight attendant standing over me with pity.  The flight attendant says "do you need a break?" Is she joking, I think?  I say, "are you going to watch him for me so I can sleep?"  She says "I meant do you want to take him for a walk to the back of the plane", which is a bit like asking a rabbit being eaten by a boa constrictor if he would like to take breather without removing the snake.

Seven miserable hours later we arrive at Heathrow to transfer to our flight to Prague.  He sleeps only when we have to be awake, such as when we wheel him around in his little red chariot. 

Finally in Prague!

The adjustment to Prague was difficult and why wouldn't it be?  Jetlag sucks when you know what's going on and why you are trying to force yourself to sleep when you don't feel like it, but when you are three and all of this is alien to you it must be bizarre.  And being a tourist must be even more baffling.  We are going to walk around all day with crowds of people in the hot sun and stare at old buildings and things behind glass that we can't touch and we can't run or yell or touch annnnyyything.  How's that fun?

The Prague tram/bus/subway system is great, btw

We spent much time in both Prague and later in London on buses and trains which meant that he felt the need to get out of his stroller and sample every possible seat, perhaps to assess the view, the quality of the molded plastic?  Every vehicle was a sensory adventure rather than a means to an end. 

With Grandpa Terry on the top floor of a red London bus
With Aunt Cis waiting for the Underground

When Sam and I visited my sister in Vietnam we did an overnight bus tour of the Mekong Delta.  I remember that there was a Scandinavian family, a mom and a dad and a little girl who was about 6 years old on the tour with us and about 20 other adults. We filed through narrow riverways in long canoes and toured a candy making operation and a small farm with pigs and chickens. Otherwise we sat on a bus for hour upon bumpy hour.  The entire two days this child did not utter an unpleasant or defiant sound.  She sat and watch out the window, chatted quietly to herself and her doll, and drew in a coloring book.  Her parents were equally sedate.  When the bus got stuck in traffic we all had to get off and walk amid a sea of motorbikes to a ferry in the dark of night with our luggage and very little in the way of explanation and they seemed to be fine that. That's just what I'm going to be like when I'm a parent I thought, and my children are going to be just like this angelic, peaceful Scandinavian vision of manners.  Don't ask me why I thought I could avoid passing any of my personality traits on to my child but I guess these are the things you tell yourself when you are in the process of convincing yourself that you would make a good parent. 

We flew 3 more times on the trip and he became a bit better on each one.  Prague to Edinburgh and Edinburgh to London were both quick flights and he started to get the drill: Stay in line, don't touch anything, do whatever they tell you, sit down and stay put until the pilot says you can move, which is never.

Killing time in Edinburgh Airport

Settled in (finally)

The final leg home he made great progress, managing to accomplish something I never thought I would want him to do; sit down and watch TV for 7 straight hours.  It was hard for him but he managed to do it and then fell asleep, blissfully, half an hour before we landed.

Sleeping beauty