I recently spent three days in Boston with a friend I haven’t seen in two years. There was no boozing or late nights. We didn’t hang out in cafes drinking lattes. I didn’t take in any museums or galleries or walk the Freedom Trail. In fact, the closest we came to being tourists was stopping in at Flour Bakery and Cafe for their pie of the month (strawberry and rhubarb in case you were wondering).
It’s not that either of us lack an interest in culture and history, or good
coffee champagne. But this was a different sort of trip. This trip was about catching up with an old friend and meeting two little people new to this world – beautiful twin boys – 6 1/2 months old (5 months corrected).
These two little guys aren’t the first babies born within my friendship circle. While I am single and sans my own children, I am blessed to be an “Aunty” to more than twenty little people. As a result, I’ve spent twenty five years changing my share of nappies, choo choo-ing food down reluctant tunnels, rocking and singing away tears, waiting out tantrums, kissing boo-boos better, dashing to emergency rooms and walking around with vomit on my shoulder and crushed, dried banana in my hair. And while they haven’t been my little people biologically, I have fretted and worried, laughed and cheered them on all the same. And twenty plus hours of traveling time, along with the usual offensive US immigration experience at LAX, aka ‘armpit of airports’, was not going to deter me from the chance to be a part of that again.
Of course, twins were the reason we were far from the maddening crowds and instead pounding the pavement around Cambridge, braving the rain (thanks for that Boston) while pushing the craziest industrial stroller you’ve ever seen. And in-between pulling comical faces at the boys and talking at a million miles an hour about everything that has happened since we last saw each other, this was quite possibly one of my best travel experiences to date. Here’s why:
1. I was going to see people not places. I was surprised at how difficult this concept was for so many people who asked about my trip. Despite being very open about my purpose for going to Boston, almost everyone had suggestions with how I should spend every minute of those precious three days. Many were also shocked, disappointed and, some, even angry that I did not plan to “see” Boston. In their view I was contravening all the rules of travel. Which wasn’t exactly true. First of all, I did see beautiful gardens and fabulous old, historic houses but, most of all, I saw the miracle of life. But also, just to be clear, traditionally travel was about doing exactly what I did on this trip. Outside of a few adventurers and the very wealthy, travel was reserved for journeys to see family and dear ones who lived far away. Travel as we do it today is a relatively new concept and, while I consider myself one of those original adventurers at heart, I am also conscious of the value in travelling for the purpose of connecting.
2. I made no plans. Because of point no.1 (other than my arrival and departure) I had absolutely no planned schedule. As a result, within minutes of arriving I was readily and joyously subsumed into the world of a family with multiples. There was no push and pull, no negotiating time, no cutting short conversations to attend booked events – my schedule simply became theirs. And for someone with an incredibly scheduled and full working life, it was blissful to relinquish control to the rhythm of someone else’s life.
3. I had no expectations. Although this was my first experience with multiples, with twenty plus children behind me I had no expectation of sleep-ins, long lunches or late nights. In fact, I admit, I was relishing the idea that as soon as possible after the twins were asleep, my friends would be hankering for an early night – you don’t have to have children to appreciate an excuse for getting as much shut eye as possible. And just as I submitted to their schedule, I also shelved any expectation that things would turn out a certain way. When it came to feeding time, one of both may like the pureed broccoli or not (not). One of both may fall straight asleep or cry until your heart broke (a bit of both). Rocking at the window might work… nine out of ten times (or not at all). Being with children is a constant recall back to the present. There is nothing other than the reality of what is, and it was an incredible blessing to be reminded of that.
4. There was no ego. When there are children involved the world’s orbit shifts from you to them. Multiply the children and you are pulled into another galaxy. They didn’t care about my hair other than to pull it. Even if I’d had time for make-up, it was irrelevant other than as something to be licked or baby bitten off. I was unaware of, and they were unapologetic for, the vomit on my sleeve and the squashed pumpkin smeared on my i-phone. I know the joy I took in this perhaps isn’t the same for mums who live it day in and day out, but while my friend bemoaned the state of her hair, all I saw was her beauty. Being a mother had stripped her back to the very essence of woman and it was magnificent.
I have never been more reluctant to leave a holiday destination. I have never felt so rested, so revived or so re-connected as I did after three glorious full on days with those little guys and their parents. It wasn’t that I had been doing all my other holidays wrong, only that I had done this holiday oh so right. As I flew back across the ocean that separates us, I focussed on anchoring that sense of well being, that feeling of being centred and most of all, of being a part of something so much bigger than the day to day grind. My point of course, is not that children are a holiday or a walk in the park. Rather that they are a good benchmark for how life should be lived – with intent, with curiosity, with openness and heart, with a cry followed by a laugh, with cuddles and long sleeps. All the trappings we surround ourselves with simply fall away when we step back and look out at the world through the eyes of our little people. We too need rest. We need to be nourished, we need to feel safe and sheltered, and above all, we need to feel loved. And we need to remember that not just on our holidays, but every, single day.