Under The Creation of Adam

I rocked her, swaying side to side and revolving in place, while she was snug against my chest wrapped in the carrier. Audrey was loud and upset from a missed nap on a day out in Rome, so I quietly sang to her hoping she’d nod off.

I had always hoped to be here, but never imagined it would be with my husband and our two young children. I had envisioned endless time and a schedule that only I would be subject to. But there we stood, all of us, in the Sistine Chapel, under The Creation of Adam. I wanted to sit and stare up at this masterpiece, but instead we were working to hush our children, using quietly-hissed demands. Finally, with an ache in my neck from craning it backward and the weight of the carrier pulling at my shoulders, I made my exit sooner than I’d wanted.

sophia_audrey_romeA few days later, I was picking up my almost-two-year-old off the cold marble tiles at the Galleria dell’Accademia, setting her upright again. Then I asked my four-year-old to stand instead of walk-crawl on her knees which was an obvious distraction in this place. All of these parental musts couldn’t help but overshadow my few brief glances at Michelangelo’s 16-foot statue of the David. I was hoping for an emotionally holy-artistic experience, but there wasn’t time for it. A moment later, we whisked our children outside where they had permission to be as loud and playful as they wanted.

During these angry-annoyed moments with my children, I imagined what it would be like to travel without kids: the simplicity of putting on my own coat without having to bother helping anyone else; the unhurried and uninterrupted time to contemplate and comprehend the artistic and historical; the delicious glass of red wine sitting on the table, unafraid of being spilled, just waiting to be slowly enjoyed, savored.

You get the idea.

Traveling with kids, in a constantly changing environment, is one of the most stressful endeavors I’ve experienced so far—“Just eat the gelato and watch Elmo on the iPad and sit still for one minute, damnit!!”

We are slow travelers. Our pace is interrupted by children trying to get our attention. Our backs get sore from holding children who refuse to walk on their own or who would otherwise get lost in the London foot traffic. They need us over and over again. We are the exhausted ones, trying to enjoy, trying to be thankful for both having the opportunity to travel as well as for parenting these little ones of ours. We live in that dissonance every time we embark on another journey. We hold onto our sanity as tightly as we can while also grasping at the coat sleeves of our children.

We’ve learned about the medical system in five different countries and are pros at locating pharmacies and finding pediatric medicine. Despite multiple attempts to force our daughters to experience the local flavors, we often eat lunch at yet another McDonald’s. We also feel the sting when we’ve paid our child’s entrance fee to see the 1000-year-old castle and they are more interested in the grass surrounding the castle.

And yet, there is a special medal we earn for bravery and for courage when we travel with our children. We receive more smiles and more forgiveness for not speaking the native language when locals see how distracted we are with our littles. On many occasions, we’ve received “ciao bella” from older Italian couples with lovely wrinkled grins as they gently touch our children’s cheeks. Our itineraries always contain a stop by the city park where children don’t care about languages spoken other than the universal language of play. The grinning faces of our children has been enough to earn them a few extra free pieces of Swiss chocolate. Traveling with children means we get to be silly and laugh about the stench of whales exhaling through their blowholes. We get to observe more—such as the differences between ladybugs in Denmark and in Sweden— because we are slowed by our children’s stubby legs and handholding.

They help us care and they soften us.

One day we will love telling them about their travels as young children, and by then I won’t remember all of the hard parts. Instead, I will remember the amazing: daring to take our two young children into a world that has such breathtaking beauty and such magnificent diversity, and telling them about the God-made things and the incredible things people have constructed. All of our experiences in traveling with our children—hurriedness and limitations clipped by slivers of pure amazement, delight, detail, forgiveness and companionship—are woven through the spirit of our family story. That story is our masterpiece.

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bio-pic_small“Under The Creation of Adam” is written by Lisa Collier. Lisa moved from Pittsburgh in 2012 and is currently an expat living in Doha, Qatar as a trailing spouse. Her husband, two girls and dog make this place a home. Lisa took on the challenging but wonderful experience of homeschooling this past year.  Lisa has traveled quite a bit, but the view from inside the train on the way from Milan to Zurich was one of the most breathtaking scenes of all. Read more on her blog, “Once You are {Real}”.

3 Thoughts.

  1. Lisa, you have definitely earned that medal for bravery and courage—not just because you have embarked on all of these travels with your two wee ones, but also because you have apparently done it with grace, humor, and a healthy dose of honest reflection and perspective. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

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