New parents react in different ways when a new baby comes into the house.
There is still a misconception that once children are born normal life stops. The family has to change to fit around all the new baby’s needs because the baby is both precious and delicate.
Well precious they may be, but delicate never. Baby’s survive and thrive some of the most inhospitable places on the planet, and wrapping them up in cotton wool and tip-toeing around the house when they sleep is doing them no favours at all.
When our daughter had reached the ripe old age of four months we popped her into a baby backpack, bought our nearly three year old son a small backpack of his own to fill with his ruggie, teddy and a few toy cars and caught a bus to Perth airport to catch a flight to Europe.
There was a moment. There had to be at least one. It wasn’t somewhere exotic, like 35,000 feet over China or racing across an impossibly huge Asian airport looking for a connecting flight. Our moment came on the London Underground a few days later, sitting next to each other on a rattling train at 10am local time, still 2am in our Western Australian world, when I snapped at their mum, or she snapped at me, then we snapped at each other.
It wasn’t much, but both children felt the tension and reacted to it. For a moment I wondered if we’d done the right thing, would this all end in a four-month tear fest and a quick divorce?
Communication without recrimination is a powerful thing, and we used it, got over the trivial piece of annoyance neither of us could remember and vowed not to let it happen again during the trip. It didn’t, and we had an extraordinary journey I will never forget.
We landed in Barcelona after 26 hours and spent the next four hours on a train going to visit the children’s Nanna, my mum who had moved to Spain several years earlier.
Do not think that children will be phased by new experiences. We forget that everything is a new experience for them, and it is more likely the adults will be the ones blinking wide-eyed and wondering what to do next.
Children have no such worries. The next four months were a blur of stunning spectacles and lovely moments.
Gareth our three year old desperately peeing into the already flooded San Marco’s Square in Venice, falling asleep at the top of a Swiss mountain after we spent hours working our way up there for the view, putting tents up and sleeping on beaches, in railways stations, up mountains and changing nappies in crowded Italian trains in order to clear our compartment so we could get a good nights sleep.
We ate the biggest ice-cream together in Basel at the Movenpic Restaurant, Gareth’s eyes boggling at the size of it and standing on tip-toes to reach. Sian sitting in her backpack being given money, fruit, sweets and little toys all over Greece.
Goat bells, donkeys, guillotines and waxworks. The battle of Trafalgar at Madame Tussauds which to a three year old is as real as it gets, star gazing at the Planetarium and mixing it with the tourists picking their way through ancient ruins of Southern Europe.
We jammed into a train in Athens to go and visit the Acropolis, and it broke down. With temperatures climbing into the high forties the crammed carriage felt like a tomb and people around us began to panic. The doors and windows were closed, there was no way out and for 45 minutes we sweated and tried to control our fear.
We stripped the children’s clothes off to their underwear and I carried them over the top of peoples willing shoulders to get them air coming from a crack in a window. One man suffered a heart attack while others began ripping the compartment apart looking for something to smash their way out with.
When the train suddenly jolted forward it was only just in time, and if it hadn’t been for the two children there and the care people showed them the situation would have deteriorated much sooner.
We were scrambling to the surface looking for water and a couple of quick reviving Ouzo’s, other passengers were beating up and shouting at the poor train driver and our two children, none the worse for their adventure, laughed and giggled and hadn’t a care in the world.
We lived on a secluded beach in the Greek Islands, became Greek for a while and looked after goats, caught fish, learned some of the language and fell in love again with a country that flows into your soul while you’re not looking.
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