I was recently doing an interview and was asked about traveling with a toddlers and young children. As I was talking I started to realize just how old my girls now are and how far away those days really were. As I was reminiscing, I began relaying the story of when we were in Bali. All the street vendors were always asking the girls if they wanted something- 'You like braid? You like shoe? You want nail?' for their nails to be painted and the girls simply replied, 'yes' to every offer. They had no idea at that point about the money involved or that each of those requests were not altruistic. But I absolutely LOVED the innocence of that time. They just looked wide-eyed at the person and usually just nodded yes with a smile.
I recntly read the world's most depressing article in the New Yorker here . The article is about why people hate parenting and pretty much why children's museums should come with a bar. I'm thinking they ought to move to Germany! All the good parks there had little beer gardens for the parents to hang out in that overlooked the kids area. The play equipment was for the kids and they actually had amenities for the adults as well. Definitely a more mature and developed society than our newbie country. Anyway, back to the article, I just wish there was a way to convey to these unhappy parents to let all the hard parts go and truly enjoy the child in its particular age. Those toddler years that so many find challenging can be such an enjoyable time. When I think back to my little one in Bali and Japan- so open and eager to try things. She would taste foods and spit them out if she didn't like them but was still willing to give things a try. The whole world was pretty new to her still and travel was just an extention of that new world.
Maybe it's because I'm such an explorer at heart that I really loved having kids this age that are basically in a contstant state of exploration. I loved watching them explore. I remember when they went to the park with some neighbor kids in Japan, crouching behind cars watching them- not out of fear, but curiosity. How would they interact with these kids that only speak Japanese? Would they 'get' the Japanese play equipment? And why were they comfortable going to this park without me when they will hardly leave my side at parks in the US? Watching my kids always filled me with questions. The same reason I love travel is the same reason I love being around this age. Trying to understand a toddler is much like trying to understand a new country- endlessly fascinating.
I think these parents that hate parenting hate it because they are essentially trying to make their kids do what they want them to do all day and kids being born these days are just not having it. If they could just step back and observe more and direct less, I'm sure their lives would be so much richer.
So now that my girls are moving into their pre-teen years they no longer have the innocence of thinking the whole world is offering them shoes because they are 'pretty.' "Pretty girl, you like shoes?" was a phrase they heard about 100 times a day in Bali. Now a days they can barter and haggle with the best of them and get a pair of flip flops at rock bottom price. It's a totally different experience. They make it to the top of a mountain hike before I do and I don't need to carry anyone down the last half because they were too tired. We are in a new place of discovery- more as peers now - basically seeing the same thing when we travel. It's rewarding in a new and different way. But there is part of me that really misses that magical time. I had a friend who would use the phrase, 'like doing a magic trick for a toddler' as a euphemism for 'futile' because everything is magic for them. Turning on a water faucet is a magic trick, unzipping a zipper, pouring water out of a bottle... it's all magic.
I was recently sent this link, Teaching Your Children About Money, from a reader, with lots of great links about teaching children about money. Mine learned their money skills in the trenches of haggling and money exchange, but if you are state bound for a while, these links could come in handy. There are also lots of fun ways to take some of these ideas but mix in some foreign currency to make it fun. I think I've even seen some on Ebay before - or just print out pictures online of foreign currency and figure out which ones have haggling cultures- Japan-no, Bali- yes, Ireland- no, Iran-yes. Then you can play some games with your kids around how much things cost- but never settle for asking price in a haggling culture!