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May 19, 2012

(Late post, due to rereading Anna Karenina, which I had no idea I LOVED. Last time I read it I’d never experienced an adult [love] relationship, and thought everyone was a little silly. Now I relate way too much to pretty much every character. So much for being a grownup.)

I have at least one major conflict between my desire to reproduce and my love of personal freedom that would be restricted by said reproduction.


XY and I went on a mini-vacation last week to the Upper Penninsula on the shores of Lake Superior, where neither of us had ever been. It was absolutely lovely. Woods of birch and pine, rivers running red with tannins, fowl we city folk don’t see enough of (wild turkeys, turkey vultures, a raven, a bald eagle and a loon!), and peace and quiet. We camped the first night, which was a terrible idea due to the cold (somehow we thought we knew what we were getting into?), but luckily off-season prices on hotel rooms and cabins were kind to us, and we had more formidable shelter the next night. Clouds and rain kept us from the star-gazing we’d originally hoped to do, but all-in-all, it was a lovely break and a chance to explore somewhere totally new to both of us.

Like so much in my life, every time I experience something new and wonderful (yes, almost every time) I dream about sharing it with my child. Things like good beer will have to wait until after 21, and any birds-and-bees education obviously doesn’t translate into direct sharing, but for the most part, I love life, I love being human, and I can’t wait to share existence with a little being who will also love new and wonderful things, yet experience them in a totally unique way.

I love travel, and I definitely want to travel with my kids. I’m looking forward to many adventures with them, especially if XY and I combine said adventures with a mid-life sabbatical. But.

Travel is expensive. Even on the cheap, the way XY and I do it (camping, going off-times of year, staying part-time with family and friends, flying carry-on only) we still average about $2500 for a serious two-week vacation (the dollar amount on our drive from San Francisco to Vancouver back in 2010, including cross-country airfare). We don’t care to indulge on fancy hotel rooms or business class seats, but we do LOVE a good meal and want to soak up all the fun museums and sights we can get our hands on. And so we feel its money well-spent, if we go on such an adventure every couple years or so.

I grew up traveling, because my dad was a professor and would go on [real, not self-imposed] sabbaticals to do work-related research in Europe. When I was three, my family lived in Madrid, jaunted all about France and Spain, and even took a bus tour to Morocco. While there are great pictures of me sitting on a salamander in Park Güell and yes, I do actually have memories of riding a camel in the “desert”, for the most part Spain (and expensive travel in general) was wasted on me. Hell, I didn’t even keep up my three-year-old’s Spanish. No doubt my parents would not have gone had my dad’s work not taken him there, and had they not had my older brother (who doubtless got loads more out of the experience at age twelve). Because it IS expensive.

I want to give my kids everything, but while I love traveling, I’m not expecting to do much of the “serious” variety I mentioned above with my kids until they’re five or so. But going five years without a serious adventure (especially for someone who lived abroad as I did – I left the country like clockwork every two years or so from age 10 to age 20) sounds grating. And yet I can’t justify the expense to myself of an added plane ticket, hauling a carseat, uprooting a nap schedule, and generally not having as good a time as XY and I would have by ourselves. As horrible as it is to admit to myself, I actually am that selfish. Not only do I want grownup career time away from my kid, I think I’d also like some time with my husband learning, talking, adventuring and relaxing, in the form of a nice vacation. Both from having been a kid under five traveling and from loving travel as an adult, I really DON’T want to do anything more involved as a whole family than short camping or road-trips until my kid is old enough. I do think babies and kids can get lots out of travel, but there’s little to differentiate a road-trip from a plane-trip abroad, aside from the headaches of flying and time-changes (which just seem like added negatives). That awesome museum on the other side of the country will be even more awesome when my kid is seven than when she’s two, and loves leaves and ducks in the park just as much as museums. Frankly, to satisfy my own lust for grown-up time with my husband, I think saving up for a babysitter for a week or handing the little one off to grandma’s or uncles’ house would actually be more in line with what I’d enjoy than baby-backpacking across Europe.

(Oh yeah: and Disneyland/Disney World? NOT my thing. If my kid starts absolutely begging for it we can begin negotiations. But XY and I really have no interest in traveling there for it’s own sake. Mom and Dad pay the bills, and they call the shots on trips until the kid actually starts expressing specific itineraries for himself.)

This is one of those things where I really wonder if I’m guessing correctly on what I’ll want for myself and my family. Unlike birthing or feeding or diapering where I feel like I’m on solid ground, it’s harder to picture what I’ll really want once I am a mom (and of course, what XY will want as a dad). And for the most part parting from my hypothetical kid just makes me scream NO NO NO! But I think I’ve really opened up my mind to the fact that yes, I can separate myself from my kid, even when they’re a baby. And that I’d rather save those dollars for a really nice vacation we can ALL enjoy abroad together ten years or so later. [Obviously since I’ve mentioned I’d like to have some extended-breastfeeding time, we wouldn’t go on a big vacation like this anyway until our kid hits eighteen or twenty-four months or older. But two years is a lot easier for me to stomach than five.]

And if I really love the selfishness, and want to keep having “grownups-only” vacations? I don’t expect we’ll do it that often, but there are also other options, like going on vacations when your kids go to sleep-away camp, or while trading travel with another family (I’ll take your kid or kids for a week if you take mine next summer). I definitely camped with friends’ families several times as a school-age child and loved it, and my parents would also let me take a friend along for certain other trips (great for them, because we would amuse each other!). Most important to me though is that I come to grips with the idea that kids need independence, and will sooner or later start declaring it themselves. And sometimes? XY and I may need our independence too. Hopefully to help us reconcile just how much we all love spending time together.

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