When our children are born… we shower them with love, cuddles and kisses.  Grandparents arrive with presents and fluffy toys and special snuggle blankets.  We decorate the walls of their nurseries… and we coo loving words to our offspring as they grin their toothless grins and kick their legs excitedly.  We tell them that we love them.  We tell them that they’re special and treasured and beautiful and priceless.

Why do we do these things for our kids?  They don’t understand it – and they’ll never remember any of it anyway.

When our children turn one, many of us host lavish birthday parties.  There’s cake… balloons… decorations… and lots and lots of presents from many loving relatives.  We say “Happy birthday, Baby!”… and we shower them with kisses and snuggles.

Why?  They’re too young to understand birthdays… or presents… or what it even means to be 1 years old.  They’ll never remember sitting in their high-chair while everyone celebrated… they won’t even remember the presents – or who gave them what.  They won’t remember the party packs… they won’t remember who attended.

Why do we do these things for our kids?  They don’t understand it – and they’ll never remember any of it.  Why even bother?  Why spend all that money? Surely it’s a waste.

_______________________

 Obviously, I wrote the paragraphs above with tongue-firmly-in-cheek.

I wrote it, because within our travelling-family community – there’s a question that many of us have heard again and again:  “Why do you travel with your kids when they’re so young?  They don’t understand what they’re seeing – and, besides, they’ll never remember any of it anyway.  It’s just a waste of money”.

This month, our Travelling Families community is doing a little group-writing project (this happens occasionally)…  and so, this post is my response to that question.  (You can read the response of other travelling families if you click on the links at the end of this post).

If you actually break it down… I think we travel with young children for many of the same reasons that parents make an effort to do all kinds of fun stuff with their babies.  It’s like… investing into someone.  It’s a part of the developmental process… it’s a part of nurturing.  You’re sowing love, warmth, fun and wonder into your children’s lives – even when they’re too young to truly get what they’re seeing or experiencing.

Just because they don’t get what they’re seeing or experiencing – doesn’t make it any less important or relevant to their lives.

Snuggling tiny babies isn’t just nice-for-the-parents – it’s hugely important to the babies too.  I’m sure you’ve read the various studies about every human’s need for touch… and you probably already understand how children benefit from snuggles as much as parents enjoy dishing them out.

Travel is the same.  It’s a bonding experience for the entire family.  Sights… sounds… tastes… new environments – and lovely memories to be made are beneficial for the whole family – not just mom and dad.

England 2006

We took Morgan on a trip from South Africa… to England (the photo above was taken in Windsor)… to Washington DC… to Norwalk, Ohio… to Portland Oregon… and back to South Africa.  She was 6 months’ old at the time – and doesn’t remember the experience itself… but, if you ask her now (she’s 7) – she loves to hear the stories (and often asks me to re-tell them again and again) about what she saw and did on her first international journey.

So, I pull out the photos and I show her.  And she gets very excited and says:  “Did I like visiting that castle, Mommy?”

And I say:  “Yes, for the most part.  But then you got tired and went to sleep – but daddy and I loved that castle”.

And then she’ll say:  “I look nice and warm in that lovely pink jacket.  Did I like it?”

And I say:  “Yes you did”.

And then she’ll ask:  “Was I good on the plane?”

And I say:  “You were wonderful!  You went on lots of long-distance flights and you only cried on one of them – and only for a short time”.

Morgan loves to hear these stories.  She lights up like a little beacon when I show her the photos of herself and share stories about what we all experienced together.  It makes her feel loved… important… special… included.

No baby bath while travelling? No problem! (Morgan loves this photo)...

No baby bath while travelling? No problem! (Morgan loves this photo)…

And that’s what we’re creating with travel:  stories!  Stories that can be re-told again and again.  Stories that we’ll all remember (Morgan remembers all of the stories I tell her about when she was a baby and what she did – even though she may not remember the actual events themselves). … and, of course, lots of family bonding… and loads of wonderful moments and precious times together as a family.

Joah may not remember the day when he sat on the beach eating sand.  But we remember… his sister remembers… his granny remembers… and when we look at the photo together, Joah is delighted by the story:

“Look Mommy!  I was on Margate beach with granny, eating the sand!”.

And I say:  “Yes, my boy… you were”.

Joah and the sand.

Joah and the sand.

The kids are older now.

Morgan is 7 and Joah is 5.  They’re now at an age where they get the sights, sounds and experiences when we travel.  But we have never regretted our decision to travel with the kids when they were smaller – if anything, travelling internationally  (with a 6 month old baby in tow) only cemented our belief that travel with children wasn’t only “possible” – but was a wonderful, bonding experience (for all of us).

I’m part of a group of Travelling Families… here’s what some of the others have to say about this topic: