I caught up with my mum after our US trip, and she loved reading the updates and watching the videos. People, like my mum, were the reason I put so much effort into capturing our travels. Chances are she will not be able to get to the US in this lifetime.
Anyhoo, mum made the observation: perhaps you are giving the boys too much?
This is something Steve and I think about A LOT! They do have a privileged life, and they are very lucky little dudes, but is too much? Then again, what is too much?
We focus on giving them experiences, versus stuff (although they have good stuff too) and we take them to places where they see glorious things, as well as really tough things – as an example, we don’t shy away from taking them to a slum. We want them to know the realities of this world, so they can appreciate what they have, although we can’t genuinely expect them to express appreciation until they’re old enough to know it is true.
However, mum’s comment also took me back to what my friend, Kirsti, said when Lex was tiny. You will never see your child grow and change as much as they do after travel.
This wisdom has played out time and again. They grow incredibly!
The other wisdom is, we have no idea what kind of adults we’re raising, as the boys are living a childhood so far away from what both Steve and I experienced, it’s not funny. But I love what they are getting. I hope they love it too, when they’re old enough to know it was special.
Our mantra with them is: always be kind. Believe in yourself. And make up your own mind about everything. They ask our opinions a lot and we don’t want them to become mouthpieces for our views. It took me years to shake off other people’s views, and I don’t want them to suffer that.
Of course, we can’t guarantee they don’t take on our views, but hopefully, it will be because they considered all options and decided ours were pretty good.
I LOVE to travel
But travel is something that changed me (you can read my blog on it if you want to understand what I mean) and I want them to experience it too – long before I was doing it.
Because ever since I leapt onto the international travel road back in 1992, I have found the world to be a fascinating place, FULL of magnificent people. The more I have seen and experienced its majesty, the more I want to see and explore it. I never get bored of it. Steve feels the same, too.
Travel is our passion. Experiences and randomness our fuel for life. It’s not for everyone, but it’s certainly our thing.
However, these days, we both think it’s even better, because we get to see it through the boys’ eyes – even if they moan a lot… and they do moan a lot.
Taking them to the US on a road trip is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time now. Steve and I have both lived in and spent a lot of time in the US, so we love it, but as far as newness goes, we’re not paying as much attention as we used too, because the differences for us are already normal.
For our lads, however, there was so much newness to take on board, more so because their life exposure to date has mainly been in Asia. As a result, Asia is not strange to them like it was for me, but the West is strange. Curious huh?
Then again, they do experience a lot of cultural transference through their favorite YouTube stars… whoever that is right now. Jelly-something I think…
A family review of “O” by Cirque Du Soleil… we didn’t all love it
Things that caught their attention and got a reaction
- First it was the basic things, like revolving doors – we nearly lost arms – colors of fire trucks, the sound of sirens, motorbike cops, police cars that looked like Transformers, yellow school buses, fire hydrants, etc…. Naturally, vehicles will always play a part in US travel, as they really do know how to make ‘em big over there. Additionally, after being raised in Singapore, with cars rarely older than 10 years, the diversity of cars or trucks were always going to be high on the attention scale, They were excited to see cars from the 1920s on the road. They saw big cars, massive cars, small cars, old cars, fancy cars, limos that stretched for miles, shitty cars, teeny tiny cars, wrecked cars, colorful cars, and big, sparkly trucks too – lots of them!! Not only cars, they got to fill up the petrol tank – well they would if their dad let them. Not all rules must be followed love…. The excitement around the petrol pump – why? Because in Asia, there are people who do that for you!
- Fashion too – of course – they got to see young men in real life walking around with undies showing above their jeans! They loved it and no boys, you will not be wearing your jeans that way… Of course, it’s America, so nutty humans were everywhere – the sort that talk to themselves, wear weird clothes and accessories (mask and snorkel anyone), and more. For me, people like this bring color to the world and I love them. It was fascinating watching the boy’s reactions too. Sometimes you don’t realize they’re missing these normal day-to-day things until you see how they respond. What the boys don’t see is skin colour. They are just oblivious to it – which makes me happy
- More fashion and arse cheeks – being pre-teen/pre-puberty, girls are starting to become interesting in different ways, so the swim suit style in the South caught their attention. I’ve never seen so many arse cheeks on display – all shapes and sizes
- Talking about arse cheeks, this trip also provided opportunities for education on butt implants. Now remembering we live in Phuket where medical tourism is a thing, means plastic boobs and Botox lips isn’t new! Plastic butts though (AKA butt implants) – yes that is new, for me too, in real-life at least. I personally find this whole aspect of the beauty industry depressing. Too many women distorting themselves and I just don’t find it beautiful. A small amount – fine, an improvement to feel comfortable in your own skin – fine, but the inhuman distortions we saw… it makes me feel sad women continue to think they need to do this to appear beautiful. Painful beauty is part of human history (foot binding, removing ribs for smaller wastes, etc…) but I really wish we could move beyond it and focus on beauty within…. Anyhoo I digress
- To more specific new things, like gum ball machines – remembering they grew up in Singapore where restrictions on chewing gum still exist – a restriction I fully support. Not to mention, Jax and I both stepped in gum too, much to their amusement and revulsion. You can’t get the full experience of gum until you step in it, right?
- Graffiti in public toilets – oh we had some interesting conversations about the expletives and creative diagrams on display. Let’s just say there were education opportunities everywhere on this trip
- People sleeping on the streets. Obviously, there are people living on the streets in every country, but in the US, the sheer scale of humanity living on the streets – with their trolleys full of stuff, pets, etc… – right in the center of cities, caught the boys by surprise. They just haven’t seen it like that before, not to mention, it seems a lot worse these days. Yes, the US is changing a lot. We also witnessed the growing drug challenge as well. Yes, that was obvious and even frightening a few times. It meant Steve and I had to always be switched on to potential problems, as we guided the boys through some rather hairy places
- Food in the US is always a massive part of the experience, from the size of dishes to obsessing over shitty, nasty food seen on YouTube. That obsession did our heads in, especially as there were periods of the trip we had limited access to good food and were craving living, real food. We resorted to sliced apple cups at Disney, but even then, they came with dipping caramel sauce…. Why? When we got out of theme park hell, we all guzzled salads and vegetables – the boys too
- Physical geography and history – they got to witness spectacular geography – from deserts, to lush farmland, oceans, rivers, The Grand Canyon from the air, and more. Even better was the chance for Steve to teach them all he knew – he’s a geotechnical engineer, so he knows some stuff. Lucky boys, but I loved it too. The history was wonderful as well. Not as old as our experiences in Sri Lanka last year and Vietnam the year before, but still, we witnessed some amazing US history, including the Kennedy Space Station – awesome
- LGBTIQ education – the boys have certainly been exposed to a lot already, but a transvestite in Asia is much more delicate than a 6ft5 lady boy in Key West wearing taffeta. It blew the boys minds meeting them (I made sure they did) but was a wonderful opportunity to talk about it with them too. We had so many of those moments on this trip and I hope it’s the beginning of them accepting all flavors of humanity, because that’s what makes the world magnificent – celebrating all flavors
- Paranormal experiences – Lex really wanted to meet Robert the Doll – so we did. Steve and Jax were scared of Robert, so it was just the two of us. It was a bit overwhelming I have to admit, but Lex handled himself beautifully. He’s got a real thing for the paranormal these days, and as I’ve explored this myself, I’d rather go on that journey with him, hoping it means I don’t find him running seances as a teenager with his mates… yes, something I did, and it freaked a lot of us out. I also like the fact we can do this together, and it provides an opportunity to keep him safe in his explorations
- American TV and the shopping channels – we have protected the boys, as much as we can, from crappy TV, advertising and shopping channels. Alas that ability to control is gone now, but it’s in your face in the US. The boys loved the shopping channels, and as TVs filled the restaurants, we couldn’t escape it! Doesn’t anyone appreciate the value and beauty of silence anymore, or even the ability to have a conversation? I have to admit that, towards the end, we didn’t care so much anymore. We were done-in a week before the end…
- Hotels were obviously a big part of the experience, especially as we were moving every day a lot of the time – my word it was exhausting. Every new room was inspected top to bottom, the fridge and items for sale fully explored (no we cannot have the Oreo cookies, the chocolate, the soft drinks, the …..) it was never ending!! We stayed mostly in Marriott’s – Steve is high status, so it has benefits and consistently excellent mattresses – but I got to say, coming home to separate bedrooms, multiple toilets to choose from, and not stepping on each other’s toes, shouting at the boys to move, packing and unpacking the cases, etc…. well it was a relief for me. I take on the packing role (Steve is rubbish at it) but glad not to be living out of suitcases for a while
Here’s the boys getting over-excited about filling the car, Steve, not so much
While it was really really hard for all of us traveling that long together – let’s just say there were a lot of gritted teeth moments – I know all of these experiences were amazing for the boys and their personal growth.
We definitely grumbled a lot at the boys along the way, because let’s be honest, four people in such close proximity for so long… it’s impossible not to. We also got a lot of attitude from our mini-loves, which made us want to tear our hair out in exasperation, and declare we’ll never take them anywhere again… something every parent with pre-teens/teens says during and immediately after a trip.
Because it is bloody exasperating when you want them to appreciate how amazing these opportunities are!! It’ll happen…
Although some sort of military camp next holidays does have its appeal….
So, do we give them too much? Who knows! I know people who’ve had a lot and are awesome. I’ve known people who’ve had very little and are awesome too. There just doesn’t seem to be a roadmap detailing the right way to parent! Therefore, we’ll keep going and hope they grow into excellent men, full of heart, compassion and empathy. That’s the best we can hope for.
As parents, we see it as a privilege to be able to give our boys the opportunity to enjoy these adventures – they are lucky boys. Let’s hope it makes them more worldly-wise, more global in their thinking and just kinder people all around. That’s all we care about really, and nothing opens a mind like traveling.
In the meantime, I do really love seeing the world through their eyes. What do you reckon?
Yours, without the bollocks
Thank you for reading my ramblings. My brain and heart are a work in progress, always. I’d love a comment if it stirred any thoughts or feelings and of course, please feel free to share it with anyone you know who might be interested or entertained. I sure do appreciate it when you do. If you want to connect, I’m on Twitter here, Google+ here, Instagram here, YouTube here, and Facebooktoo. I share loads of stuff, not just my own xxxxx
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