Thoughts on Traveling Overseas with Kids

 
 

Or rather, “thoughts on traveling with kids”.  Or maybe just “thoughts on kids”.  Who knows, this may end up just being “thoughts”.

I’ve been on a bit of a blog break in case you haven’t noticed, and it’s because we flew to Taiwan to see my parents.  And since there’s currently a 13 hour difference, this wasn’t just a weekend trip.  It was however, just long enough to overcome jet lag, spend quality time with my family, see a few sights, eat a lot, and then fly back to fight jet lag again.

mega-city

1. Oh how I love thee, dear jet lag.  You fill my life with sarcasm and exhaustion, solitude and quiet moments of joy.  My kids wake up at 1:30 in the morning and since I don’t get enough sleep to begin with, I’ll just wake up right along with them, play a little Candy Crush, and listen to my son babble to himself about how he’s a very quiet superhero.  I’ve also learned that even though my daughter can’t yet talk, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a penetrating babbling voice.  So as I lay in bed staring at the ceiling and wondering when daycare opens, I listen to see if each will wake the other up with their nonsensical and yet adorable linguistic gymnastics.

Waking up at 4:30 also means there’s plenty of time for a relaxing and drawn out breakfast, nap time starts at 8 am, and if I’m lucky, I’m done with daily essential tasks by 9:30am.  A whole sun filled day stretches before me and I look forward to snuggling with my baby, getting some random work done, and then of course, being in bed by 8pm.

taiwan_travels-7

2. My kids are adorable.  I mean, just look at them. We turned heads everywhere we went.  Are you surprised? Young and old, almost every person who saw either the overly loud American toddler or surprisingly quiet baby just HAD to make a comment about how cute or beautiful they were.  We were asked if they were “hybrid”, which one was a boy and which one was a girl, and whether J’s full head of curls was natural.  Apparently, there are some in Taiwan who perm their kids’ hair, to follow a Western fad possibly?

taiwan_travels-4

3. Despite the cuteness, a few problematic issues were uncovered.  As in, disciplinary issues.  And behavioral issues.  There were things that I never noticed being at home and being hermits, but seen from another’s eyes, I’ve realized my kid definitely does not embody the “children should be seen and not heard” saying.  Between fielding tantrums on the subway, yelling at a toddler who doesn’t listen, not ever sleeping more than 2 hours at a time, and trying to put on a semblance of “perfection” for my parents,  there were many times I felt like I was one soup dumpling away from completely losing it.

I got to spend some quiet time with my mom, who gave me her perspective on my current situation, and it bummed me out.  Maybe 20 years ago I would have been defensive and mad, but now, I just appreciated the wake up call.  It’s like being in a bad relationship but not admitting it to yourself until someone who loves you enough to care decides to slap you upside the head and makes you see how far you might have gone down the wrong path.  When did I end up spoiling my child?  When did I no longer notice or correct unwanted behavior?  I felt ashamed that as a parent, I let it get this far, stressed at how I was supposed to turn things around, and really, just plain exhausted at being on edge all day.

traveling overseas with kids ain't easy

Our pediatrician says that after a long trip, you are so completely back-asswards (my words, not his) that you can change anything about your routine all at once.  So, here we are, changing things.  More consistency, more routine, more discipline and less of the overly protective overly paranoid parenting.  Maybe.  We’re still in the fog of jet lag, so who knows what sort of routine we might end up with.

4. I miss eating cheaply.  There was a glut of little food stalls and restaurants around my parents’ apartment and all we had to do was choose which direction to walk in each day.  I miss not cooking, and not having to do the dishes.  Oh yeah, and I miss the food.

taiwan_travels_hotpotPhoto via my sister. This hotpot cost US $4.

 

taiwan_travels_ramenPhoto via my sister.

5. Having parents around is such a blessing.  Even in the midst of the stress, it felt so wonderful to be with my parents, to see them with their grandchildren, and be able to occasionally dump my kids on them so Drew and I could have a moment to ourselves.  My sister also traveled with us, and we got a chance to explore a bit of Taipei on our own, without diaper bags, strollers, baby carriers and actually had lunch at a standing only sushi bar.  Can you imagine doing that with kids?  Uh, not so much.  Only the anxiety of a 15 hour plane ride with 2 kids prevented me from bawling when we left.

taiwan_travels-5Sushi from Addiction Aquatic Development

I guess that’s it for now.  My mind is a bit blank, or rather, it’s moved on to thinking about my next meal.  Oh. wait.  Speaking of next meal…

6. It’s time to go on a diet.  I still had a bit of a post-baby belly before I left on the trip.  And now?  Would you believe that when I went to get a massage, the guy asked me if I was pregnant?  Oh boy.  Mortification!  Secretly looks around to see if anyone heard.  Good thing Drew doesn’t understand Chinese.  Looks down and sadly pats buddha belly full of good food and thinks, yup, it’s time.  No more hot pot, sugary bubble teas, crazy snacks.

What would you do? Ok, now I’m done.  And since it’s always good to engage my readers, here’s a question for you.  How do you deal with people (random strangers) who talk to you about your child-raising capabilities?  We had people tell us to put a hat on my daughter, to put a blanket over my daughter, who pointed at my son when he acted up, who talked to my son randomly and seemed shocked that I haven’t taught him my “mother tongue”.  I try to be polite, but a part of me honestly wanted to send laser rays with my eyes to warn people off.  What about you?  Do you take it nicely?  Do you engage in conversation or tell them off?

 
 
 
 
 

Comments

  1. says

    Great post! Not having kids (yet) and reading posts like this make me simultaneously excited and completely scared about what life will be like with kids. I also read this as you’re probably beating yourself up a little too much :) Great pictures! I especially love the first family shot…and the sign behind Drew with the woman staring into his soul :)

    • says

      Did I say congrats yet, btw? I think you’ll be a great dad, and I can totally see you being excited and scared all at the same time :-) I have a habit of beating myself up, and as a parent, I think it comes even easier because you really just want to do the best you can and the circumstances are so often not in your favor! And yeah, I was pretty pleased with some of the photos from this trip – I’ll share on FB eventually. Haha, I didn’t even notice the woman staring into Drew’s soul until you point it out!

  2. says

    Well, maybe I am snarky, but I will let no stranger discuss behaviour of my kids or something else. I only listen to my husband or a very direct relative. I just smile and walk away. Maybe it’s a cultural thing? Here in the Netherlands there are very few strangers who would give uninvited advice!
    Your post is very honest. I hope you are feeling a bit better now. A few months ago my husband was saying he would like to go on a holiday in Canada (9 hour time difference) and well I was completely scared about it! Flying with two little kids, no way now. You are a lot braver than I am!

    • says

      Then I guess I’m pretty snarky too! I smile and shoot invisible laser beams and try to get away as fast as possible. Maybe it is a cultural thing – people would just start random conversations on the street or on the bus, and I never get that here. But then, I don’t get out much here in suburbia, so maybe it’s also a metropolitan thing? And yes, my mom also said I was brave. The other word might be “crazy” :-)

  3. says

    LOVE this post! What an awesome trip it must have been (anxiety-filled and jet-lagged, but definitely one to remember, I’m sure). The food looks amazing, and your kids are dang gorgeous. As for strangers having something to say about my kids or how I’m raising them, I do NOT handle it well. It doesn’t happen often and I usually just ignore it, but it bothers me deeply. Motherhood is so hard as it is, I don’t know why anyone feels the need to make it harder by adding their two cents (even if they think they’re helpful . . . it is never helpful). When Forrest was still pretty little (like, a little over a year if I remember right), he was sucking his fingers and cuddling his precious blankie in a shopping cart and an older lady stopped and said, “Isn’t he too old for that?” Whether she meant the blankie or the finger sucking, I have no idea, but she’d probably be horrified to know that at 3 1/2 he’s still going strong with both!

    • says

      Thanks Rachel! I don’t want to give the impression that it was a bad trip by any means – it really was awesome and we’ll remember lots of moments from it for a long time! Good to know I’m not alone in that statements from strangers bother me more than I let on superficially. I always smile and move away, but I find that I’m thinking about the comments later, and gosh, why?! I know they’re random comments but it gets under my skin. More power to Forrest and his comfort tactics! I wouldn’t know what to say if some lady said that to my kids!

  4. Carol says

    Love your post – your family is so beautiful:)))). And such awesome pics. Love the photo bomber over your husbands shoulder. Ignore unsolicited advice – it’s not worth the words.

    Carol

    • Nada says

      WTF Elianne! it happens ok!
      It looks like a great trip! Let’s get together sometime. i would love to hear all about it and see pics!

    • says

      Ooh, I’ll have to talk to her. But I sort of understood why. I had a pretty hefty buddha belly from lunch, and I was getting a serious foot massage, and we’re always told foot massages can induce labor. But I’ll say, I didn’t have a “I’m going to give birth any day now” sort of lunch belly. Just sayin’.

  5. linda says

    My MIL was a very judgmental and difficult person. She did a lot of pushing my patience with negative comments about my child rearing, so I got plenty of practice with responding. :) I have found that any comment I don’t agree with can begin with “…you may be right about that…” and, if I care about the person who is being negative, I might add something like “…we’ll have to think about that idea…”

    Generally letting the other person know that they are valid in having an opinion (everyone is entitled to their own opinion, even if I think their ideas are pure b.s.:) … and that I respect that right even if I don’t agree with their cockamamie ideas. :)

    Linda

    • says

      That’s a nice way to deflecting it, Linda! I’m just terrible with thinking up things to say in that moment. Got plenty in my head afterwards! :-)

  6. says

    I applaud you for asking these questions, ChiWei. I think they’re good ones…and while I don’t have any answers, I guess I just want to encourage you to not be too hard on yourself. Life is definitely full of bumps in the road. And it’s definitely healthy to step back and reevaluate and make the changes WE want to make, not what others say we should. And it sounds like you’re doing just that. Keep on keeping on, girl! For as much as you feel like you’re doing wrong, you’re doing A TON right! Hugs.

  7. says

    Oh my!! I can totally relate with everything!! I live in Hong Kong.. We go back and forth to the US twice a year.. NOT fun with kids.. all though because we do it so often we’ve gotten a bit better. My kids are the loudest where-ever we go here.. I often here… “western kids are so…. energetic” I’m not sure if its a compliment or them telling me to shut my kids up. ;o) Using public transportation just puts your kids on a whole new level of exposure. I’ve been to many massages where I know for sure they are talking about my hips and butt… I just don’t have the asian body! So glad you got to spend time with family and take your kids on a great adventure!

    • says

      Wow, Emily, I didn’t know that! So you totally get the whole halfway-around-the-world travel dilemma :-) And yes, “energetic” is the nice word people like to use – makes me wonder too whether people mean “uncontrollable”. We were “that family” with the screaming kid on the flight there, but things were sooo much better on the way back, so I can see that more exposure to public places like planes and subways can really help kids’ behavior – it’s just becomes normal.

  8. says

    That sounds like SUCH an adventure, ChiWei! I’m glad that you got to have some downtime with the hubby while your parents watched the kidlets. And those meals are insane! How awesome that you got to eat so well for so little!

    And as for the “unsolicited advice” thing… well… I’m not a confrontational person, so I often thank people for their suggestions and then move on. Unless I am being outright criticized (or my child is…), I usually take what people say with a grain of salt and move on. I figure that these people are only seeing a snapshot of my life. They can’t possibly know how I’m truly raising these children. I just have to trust my own judgement, and not theirs.

    • says

      Thanks Tara, yeah, the downtime was a welcome relief, and the food…oh, swoon. And you’re right about the advice thing – everyone sees that one snapshot and I get that most are often being friendly or helpful, so I just have to remember that and smile and move on :-)

  9. Drew says

    You forgot to mention that everywhere we went, men would tell me I’m handsome (or rather, they would tell you, or your dad, in Mandarin Chinese, that I am a very handsome man.) WHY COULDN’T IT BE THE WOMEN SAYING THIS!?!?

    • Jin says

      LOL! I can totally see that… this is a culture where it’s completely OK (and even expected) for a man to praise another man for his looks, height, wealth, and expensive watch. Unfortunately unwanted / unsolicited comments are also dished out without abandon… as CW has experienced. :(

      BTW Awesome trip… my stomach is totally grumbling from looking at the food pictures… and you give me hope that some day, maybe, we can go back to Beijing with the little one.

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