Disclaimer: I am very aware that the experience I am about to describe below is not necessarily typical of all similar situations or families. Please enjoy it anyway.
We took a family vacation last week. My son is three. The vacation involved travel in cars, buses, trains, airplanes, and a cruise ship, sleeping in a hotel, and for a little extra spice, a seven-hour delay in a very small airport. After hearing that, you would expect that I am about to go on a short, comical rant about the challenges and stress of travelling with a small child. In this case, you would be wrong.
Most any kind of movement from point A to point B with a child is challenging. For that matter, most anything with a child is more complicated than most anything without one. That’s just how it is, and as a parent you learn to accept and adjust to that fact. So on our vacation, we went to bed early, and we woke up with the sun. Our time on the beach was not spent laying on a chair with a frosty drink, but playing football with a coconut and taking turns going in the water since the waves were too scary for little man. We had to rent a car with room for a car seat. There were no leisurely meals. There were no quiet moments. We had very tired arms and backs from carrying backpacks, beach bags, and a sleepy boy. It was trying. It was fantastic.
I imagine there are many adults without children who watch travelling families and thank their lucky stars that they are not going through the same experience. I’m not going to deny that there are some times I wish I could be travelling without the added responsibility for someone else. But an unexpected perk that I really came to appreciate on this vacation is seeing a beautiful, big-hearted side to a lot of adults that I would otherwise never see.
What I expect to see when travelling is a mass of other hurried, self-absorbed people, and mildly polite customer service helping me get where I need to go. But when a wide-eyed little person is holding my hand, all of the sudden I see amazing, kind, empathetic people, travelers and service staff alike, that are going out of their way to make sure he is happy and comfortable. I can’t even count the number of smiles, giggles, high-fives, silly questions, and sacrifice of time and effort that people gave. Many of them were employees who were on the clock, but an impressive amount were other people in some stage of travel that could have just as easily walked right past or stood next to us in silence. The five-seconds I had to smile and say thank you to each of them is never enough to show the gratitude that I feel for them making him happy. I think that is more than a fair trade for the challenges we had to face, and am kind of sad that once he’s grown up I won’t get to see that side of strangers anymore. But I can choose to be one of those momentary heroes to someone else, and I think I would like that.
“And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.” – Matthew 18:5