On Friday of this week Tommy turns 10 years old, and it feels as much a milestone for me as it does for him. So each day I’ll be sharing photos that take us through the many places we’ve been together with links to posts I wrote about those places so you can come along with us.
So how did we become a traveling family? When Tommy was born I had no specific intention of spending between eight and ten weeks every year on the road, which is what we now do. I certainly hadn’t done that before I had children. Like most new mothers, I wasn’t thinking about taking him anywhere but home in fact. That photo at the top of this post of me and Tommy was taken a few days after we left the hospital; it is in fact his first outing. I think it took us a half an hour to get ready to stroll about a block up the street to show him off to the neighbors. I remember clearly how enormous the world – and how small and vulnerable I – suddenly felt.
I’m not sure precisely when my perspective shifted, but I do know that Tommy played a role in that shift. From the moment he could hold his head up, he was always looking out and forward and ahead. At a very young age – perhaps around two months – he stopped allowing us to carry him in the front pack with his face pointed in. I have a clear memory of walking down the street with him strapped to my chest; as usual he was facing outward. A young man who looked to be in his twenties and was just about as baby- and fancy-free as they come, touched my arm as I walked past and said, “Wow! I just have to tell you that your son is so alert! I’ve never seen a baby that looked around so much and seemed so excited by the world.” Fearless and engaged, that was my boy. It made me feel the same way, even through the fog of new motherhood and the equally new feeling of uncertainty that it brought.
I like to think it was Tommy’s good example gave me courage and stamina for all that travel we did during the first two years of his life– there was a four-week driving trip across the Midwest in his first summer followed by a fall trip to New York City, Thanksgiving in Vermont, Christmas in Wisconsin, and spring break in Arizona. And all of this was just a warm up for year two: Between his first birthday and his second, he was in eight different locations stretching from Italy to California.
The slideshow at the top of this post shows Tommy in each of the places we visited during that time. What a year it was: He learned to walk in Boston, to talk in London, to throw rocks in Austin, and to sing in Pasadena. We were great adventurers, he and I – while Matt worked on the book he was writing, we discovered parks, trains, double decker buses, and botanical gardens. We rode and ran and sang and threw countless numbers of rocks into ponds, lakes, streams, and puddles.
As I point out in the post I wrote listing my top reasons for traveling with kids, going places with a young child brought out the best in me as both a person and a parent. It taught me to be flexible, creative, and curious alongside my son, to venture fearlessly into the world with little else but a few spare diapers and an umbrella stroller. That’s a lot to learn in just two years!