Munchkin is now in the second month of his second year. By some accounts, this is a golden era of early childhood, as he runs around, babbles nonstop, and actively interacts with us and the world around him. In other respects, however, parenting has become considerably tougher. We’re still many months from the dreaded “terrible twos,” but Munchkin has already developed several stereotypically infuriating behaviors that test our patience.
D’s first full day in Tbilisi coincided with a national holiday — Georgia celebrates Mother’s Day on March 3. D had planned to spend the day wandering around the city and getting acquainted with its charms. Instead, his colleague suggested a trip out to David Gareji, an ancient complex of rock dwellings, churches, and monastic caves that straddles Georgia’s border with Azerbaijan.
D brought a guide book with him to Tbilisi, but hardly looked at it. D’s local coworkers were eager to introduce him to Georgian culture, and his American officemate took him to all her favorite restaurants. Moreover, D’s TDY overlapped with the return to Georgia of a friend from our Nairobi days who has spent so much time in Tbilisi over the last decade that he has acquired Georgian residency. This fortuitous coincidence meant that D not only got to see much more of the country than he would have venturing out on his own, but also that he benefited from many insights into the Georgian way of life.
In a former life, S was a dancer. She had majored in dance at college and even briefly considered pursuing a career in the arts before shifting course towards public health when she applied to graduate school. One of the surest – and saddest – signs of adulthood is when family life and work responsibilities crowd out one’s youthful passions, relegating them to the realm of memory and nostalgia. Sometimes though, at the most unanticipated of moments, life presents opportunities to relive one’s glory days. Just such an opportunity unexpectedly presented itself to S last month.
In many ways, traveling with a young child is an exercise in managing expectations. We like active vacations, with plenty of outdoor activities and sightseeing, so the first lesson we learned when traveling with Munchkin was to scale down our ambitions. Our other big takeaway is that there is virtually no limit to what one can see and do with a baby in tow, provided that one makes the effort to ensure that baby stays happy.
Whenever we wax nostalgic about our childless days, inevitably the first thing that comes to mind is how much easier it was to pack for our trips. Long gone are the days when we could fit our entire lives into a hiking bag or rolling carry-on. Not only does Munchkin have significantly more gear than the two of us combined, but it’s also sometimes difficult to draw the line between the things we absolutely need to bring and the ones that we could do without even if having them would be nice.
Munchkin’s recent birthday has put us in a reflective mood. As his due date approached last year, one of our biggest fears about becoming new parents was that his arrival would change who we are, impacting not just how we live our day-to-day lives but also our ability to indulge in the activities we enjoy and the things we used to take for granted. Chief among these is our passion for travel, which we feared we might have to forego for the foreseeable future. We need not have worried.
Munchkin’s birthday party — last month’s news whose memory has been eclipsed somewhat by more recent events — was as much a celebration for him as it was for us. The birth of one’s first child is a watershed moment: the ultimate of life’s responsibilities suddenly crashes in on one’s complacent, self-centered lifestyle. It’s scary. More than once we caught ourselves doubting whether we were ready, fearing that we might not be.
We had planned to spend last weekend in Ukraine. There was an indoor frisbee tournament at a sports complex outside Odessa, the seaside Ukrainian resort town that is just across Moldova’s south-eastern border. While D played, S intended to do some touristing with Munchkin, with the hopes that D would save a little energy to go out with her in the evenings. Among its attractions, Odessa has an excellent restaurant scene and a well-regarded opera house. Unfortunately, an administrative snafu (emphasis on the last two letters) forced us to cancel the trip just hours before our planned departure.