We sometimes wonder what goes through our young son’s head during our travels. He won’t remember these early trips – the ten European countries he visited before his second birthday, the African safaris and boat trips, the sojourns in New England to visit his grandparents – but does he enjoy these travels in the moment?
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For a while as Munchkin progressed through infancy and towards pre-toddlerhood, we were convinced that each stage of his development was about as good as could be imagined. He seemed to get cuter with each developmental leap and at each stage we consciously tried to savor the moment because we found it difficult to envision us being more enraptured with him when he ceased being so tiny and cuddly. His imperiousness once he hit toddlerhood and the whining that accompanied his frustrations at being unable to communicate his desires reinforced the perception that some of the best moments of parenthood were behind us. But now that he has become a regular chatterbox, we are back to thinking that this is as good as it gets – he may no longer be the cute little ball of snuggles he was when he was born, but he is certainly much more fun to interact with.
We’re both adventurers at heart, always seeking out new terrain to explore. We caught the travel bug young and clearly haven’t shaken it yet, but given our nomadic lifestyle, there is something inherently appealing – even comforting – about returning to the same place year after year. At least S feels that way. Three summers ago, she spent a week with her family on Deer Isle – an idyllic spot on the Maine coast – and has returned two of the last three years despite the fact that D has yet to be able to join or even make up his mind about the annual tradition.
“We need to buy more carrots at the Embassy,” Munchkin exclaimed after fishing the last of the thinly shredded orange vegetables out of S’s salad bowl, tilting his head back, and swallowing them with relish. Wrong venue, but how many two-and-a-half-year-olds have the word “embassy” in their vocabulary?
According to a recent study, “traveling will help you lose weight, feel younger, and have more sex.” Now, the word ‘study’ here has to be taken with a large grain of salt — the survey in question was carried out by Expedia, which has a pretty direct interest in getting people to travel more. Given how much delicious food we ate in Paris, we’re not sure that the first claim stands up to scrutiny, but our recent trip did make us feel younger — not so much because we were traveling, but more so because we were traveling without our son.
This week marks the 5th anniversary of D’s entry into the Foreign Service. While our first two tours flew by at breakneck speed, with hardly a break between them, the last half-year of language training has offered a measure of calm. Emerging from a long winter and even longer break in our travels, we are looking forward to the new adventures that await. Rwanda beckons this summer, and before we turn our attention to Africa there is also an overseas language immersion trip in our more immediate future.
With the holidays upon us, Munchkin’s toy collection has expanded appreciably, threatening to overwhelm the already cramped play space we have carved out of our small DC apartment. The best thing about the new additions is that as Munchkin has gotten older, the toys have become progressively better. He still gets a kick out of many of his baby toys — the ones that light up and jangle incessantly; fortunately, he is also interested in the toys aimed at the age range just above his, which makes play time much more exciting for us.
Talking with a friend whose son neared his fourth birthday around the time Munchkin just began crawling, D asked if his friend still found himself amazed whenever his son learned a new skill. “Every day,” the friend responded, “It never ceases to amaze me how his mind works — how he figures things out and masters the world around him.” In the short week since we’ve returned from our travels, Munchkin has found dozens of new ways to amaze us.