I have discovered that I enjoy traveling with Bing quite a lot. He enjoys seeing new things, still likes to be read to, and it doesn’t take much to entertain him–give him a few things and he fills in the gaps with his imagination quite nicely. We spent a lot of the flight reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. As the flight took place on a Wednesday, we had our Wednesday night movie night, and watched Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Bing had not seen it and was very pleased and excited by my surprise, even if it was really hard to hear over the white noise of the engines.
After all my efforts to prepare to sleep on the flight, and his sworn belief that he wouldn’t, B got more sleep than I. I woke after a brief nap feeling sick and dehydrated, and spent the greater part of the flight in recovering (or at least maintaining) my level of health, and watching him sleep. Thank you, peanut butter Clif bars and giant Nalgene bottles!
His only restlessness came when we had a 45-minute line at the UK Border check. But we worked with it, eventually playing a game he invented (not all that different from 20 Questions in essence).
It’s been a funny balance–he is so interested in the world, in making decisions about where we go and what we do, and I want to honor his initiative and his interests. After all, I’ve been here before and he hasn’t. But sometimes I have to decide which way to go, just to get us through Customs or to the hotel.
In a way, traveling has reminded me of what it is like to be a small child: Why do I have to walk this way instead of that? Why do I have to stand in line for so long? What are the rules of social negotiation when it is the middle of the “night” on the plane, your neighbor is a round, wrapped ball of blankets reminiscent of an oak boll, and you have to pee? Why do I have to go that way in the Tube station instead of this way? What happens when I push this switch in the hotel room, unlike other switches I’ve seen before, yet somehow reminiscent of other switches I’ve seen before? (Note for later: light switches, Don Norman, infant cognition, how do we recognize things as the thing when in an unfamiliar configuration?)
Tired though I was–and as the day came to a close I was trembling whenever I stood still–I still felt that wonderful A-ha! joy when Bing would be interested in our adventures. When he fully explored the bathroom, in all its British foreignness (curved glass half-door, kidney-shaped tub, unfamiliar toilet). When we went for a walk and he grabbed my hand and said, “Come on, let’s get on a bus.” When we’d explored by sitting at the front of the upper deck of the bus and had decided to switch buses and head back, he took charge: “That one says it goes past Marble Arch, and we passed Marble Arch on our way here–let’s take that one and explore Hyde Park before we go back!” When he decided, as we stopped at a Marks & Spencer for snacks, that his juice has been enough carbohydrates and what we really needed was protein and went to find us nuts… in a crowded and completely new grocery space, he was unfazed.
As he played that our train was a spaceship, undaunted by the bemused gazes of the self-possessed passengers around us.
And now, despite our mutual exhaustion, we are up at 2:12 am local time. This was not my choice. Evidently 5 1/2 hours of sleep is enough for the boy, but not for me. Still, it’s a good opportunity to make notes, drink water, make a cup of tea and read a book before we catch our train to Brussels. And maybe I’ll convince him to take a nap on the train? Or maybe not. In that way too, not so different from toddlerhood. Not that I’m complaining. Toddlerhood was awesome, too.