There's a bit of a ying and yang when you travel with young kids. Want to see what a city is like after about 7:30 p.m.? Tough going when you've got little ones already tucked away in bed. Interested in dining at fancy restaurants that you read about in guidebooks? Probably not going to happen very often. Magical moments as you see the world through your kids eyes? Now we're talking.
It is easy to get hung up on the way traveling Europe with young children can limit you. In fact, sometimes when I mention the places we've been to other families around here, I'm met with strange stares and "what exactly did you do with little kids there?" and "did anyone have any fun?" comments.
However... on a daily basis, on each and every trip we've taken, I'm reminded of the ways traveling WITH my kids actually enhances our travels. Experiences that can only happen when you've got a toddler who dawdles or a 6-year-old who asks 8 million questions. Moments that those so-called "fortunate travelers" without little ones in tow miss out on.
Take our evening at the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh. We spotted it earlier in the day on an open-top bus tour and my husband and I gave each other "the eye," as in "that would be a good place to let the boys run around later." Big reflecting pools, open areas of grass, gently sloping concrete perfect for running up and down (and skinned knees). To be honest, I'm certain we wouldn't have visited this area if we were in Edinburgh without our children.
After dinner, to burn off the last of the day's energy, that's where we headed.
It started out exactly as we intended. Lots of running, exploring, making use of big spaces that we certainly didn't have in our itty bitty city rental flat.
What I didn't realize is that the grounds of the Parliament building are the perfect place to admire Arthur's Seat, the famous hillside that dominates Edinburgh's panoramic views. As the sun started to hang in that low point in the sky, everything about our surroundings took on that touched-with-fairy-dust glow.
Then the boys (most notably Little Arrow, my wild child) took a keen interest in the water. It started out as "please may I touch?" and soon I knew we were spiraling toward wet clothes.
Sure enough, a few seconds later, another mom relented and let her daughter go wading. My boys looked at me like a puppy looks at you when you're eating a cheeseburger. Who can resist?
I spent the first 10 minutes trying to keep them as dry as possible. Rolling up trousers, yelling out cautions about splashing too much. At some point, I looked out on those green lawns, at the other families joining us that night, people and kids from all over the world speaking a handful of different languages, and I completely embraced our situation. Parents were laughing and nodding at each other with the universal acknowledgement that our kids were all nuts to be in the water when it was barely 60 degrees.
I realized that no one else in Edinburgh was having more fun than we were at that moment.
All because our kids were simply being kids. In a special setting, at a gorgeous location, on a beautiful May evening.
My husband and I are quite intentional in living the type of life that we hope affords us the opportunity to return to Europe to travel one day when we're older. I'm certain the boys will have fled the nest by then and be off on their own adventures. As they should be. So for now, we're happy to take a raincheck on those quiet museums, fancy restaurants and night life.
Now's the moment when I channel Oprah Winfrey. Because I know this much is true: this is likely my one shot at Europe with my kids. We're gonna splash every last drop of fun out of it before we leave. And if that means we're the family walking up Edinburgh's famous Royal Mile with little boys in wet underwear, so be it.
This post is a part of Friday Postcards at Walking on Travels.