This is hard to write because one thing I never wanted to do as a parent was to preach my philosophy. But here I go – take or leave it as you like.
Recently, a friend of ours from Scripps was killed by a drunk driver. This tragedy has had me thinking, and one conclusion I’ve come to over and over was that no one should be letting anything stop them from living the life they want, because life is too short. And that, dear reader, is the key to adventuring with a baby and other daunting tasks.
We were told many things about babies and parenting before Joey arrived last August. It would be hard. It would be amazing. Life-changing. Tiring. Exhausting, actually. Beautiful. But there were a string of advisorial (preachy?) comments that left me stinging, long before Joey was born. They could all be boiled down to something like this:
Your adventure/traveling/fun days are over. You will now have to sit at home and care for a small, crying thing 24/7. Babies can’t do the kinds of things that you guys do for fun.
I found this infuriating and also stressful. What if they were right? Simon and I talked about this endlessly while I was pregnant. We talked about it even more when I was pregnant and we went backpacking (Simon carrying most of our things because we didn’t want a hip belt pushing on our precious fetus), snorkeling, airplaning, and for late night picnics along the ocean. Was our life that we had built together around the things that we loved so much really coming to end? Our style has always been hopeful, so that’s what we went with. But really, we had no idea what to expect.
We watched other parents and their lifestyles. Being scientists, we analysed them carefully and loosely lumped them into a few categories – those that did in fact sit home all day caring for their children; those that threw themselves into parenting 120% and ran around to various baby-centered activities all day; those that simply did their best to get by between a couple of jobs and a little person or two; and a very, very small number of dedicated individuals that were taking their infants on international flights, adventure vacations, and more. The last group was clearly the one that we wished to belong to.
So yes, having a baby was beautiful, exhausting, overwhelming, and life-changing. We never could have anticipated what parenthood would be, and we love it.
But no, our lives did not end. And no, we do not sit at home all day caring for our child. In some cases, he can’t join us. PADI doesn’t offer Junior Open Water to kids under 10. His swimming skills are solid for an infant, but somewhat lacking compared to ours. We just realized that these are the prime times for grandparents (*babysitters).
In Joey’s eight month life, he has completed more than 20 legs of air travel, spent time in three countries, lived at two permanent addresses with a four month period of bumming between friends and relatives homes in between, moved across North America, lived on a sailboat for a week, gone backpacking and hiking, stayed in countless campsites and hotels, and napped everywhere from beaches to grassy fields to restaurants. And you know what? To a stranger on the street, a passing friend, or even his pediatrician, he is a pretty standard* eight month old child. (*there isn’t a good word to put here, but you know what I mean.)
Like any baby, Joey sleeps and eats a lot. He cries when he needs things. He wears diapers that need to be changed many times a day. Sometimes he wants to be upright to look around. Sometimes he wants to be snuggled. Sometimes he wants to be left alone on the ground to explore on baby time. Sometimes he gets sick, or his teeth hurt, or he just isn’t in the best mood.
The thing is, we realized that this would be the case no matter WHERE we were. And really, it wasn’t that different to change a diaper and play with a baby on an airplane, train, park bench, hotel, or campsite compared to our home (which we moved out of last December anyway).
So go out and throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. (Mark Twain)