I took my kids on a field trip today to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. I told them that it was going to be a very interesting trip, which is just a code word for long and boring. I know that conventional wisdom states that we should strive to take our kids to places that are fun and exciting, but I have never been one for convention. So, even though I was fairly certain it was going to be a dull trip, I signed us up. I had my reasons.
First of all, sometimes you have to work a little bit to learn something. It's great when learning comes with fun and games, but it's not always that way. They might as well learn that now, I say. They'll thank me when they are in college.
Also, I don't want to be one of those homeschoolers that everyone is so worried about who keeps their kids in a hidey hole. So, we regularly go out to practice socially acceptable mores, like waiting in line and not picking our nose. I also insist that they stand up straight, listen politely, and generally act proper, which is something that goes against their very nature.
Then there's my favorite reason. If I regularly take them to totally uninteresting places, then when we go someplace remotely exciting, they fall at my feet and sing my praises. Yep, I'm shallow enough to need that kind of ego stroking.
To prepare for battle, I put on my 'travelin momma uniform'. Instead of my usual ponytail of despair, I actually fix my hair using a hairdryer and a brush. I put on a nice shirt, a skirt, and a cute little pair of shoes. This all serves to create the illusion that I have it all together because at some point during the experience I figure we're going to look like we're losing it and I'm gonna have to fake it. The clothes make the (wo)man, you see. Not to mention, traveling with a preschooler and a toddler does a number on your overall appearance. It pays to start out somewhat tidy, so at the end of the day you look only slightly tired and not drug behind an old mule terrible. Oops, I think my Texas is showing.
With my loins officially girded, I am ready for anything four kids trapped on a 90 minute tour in a government building can dish up. Lest you think I am exaggerating, let me give you just a little slice of our day.
Arrive, unpack, and repack my bag. No cellphones, cameras, food, drinks, allowed inside. Also, no guns or pepper spray. I feel so naked.
Security, unpack stroller, load conveyor belt. Enter security holding squirmy baby. Fail. Enter security again, barefooted. Metal in flip flops is highly dangerous, apparently.
Pass security, load bus, exit bus, load stroller, herd children across street. Note to self: must practice looking both ways: AGAIN.
"Yes, you must go to the bathroom. No, I don't care if you don't have to go. No, I don't care if you just went. Yes, I am serious. Yes, you must zip your pants."
"You may push the button on the way up, you may push the button on the way down. Forget it, none you may push a button in elevator again. EVER."
"Stop wiggling, sit up, put your shirt down." Repeat ad naseum through entire 15 minute introductory movie.
In line and ready for tour. Yes!
Aack! Total diaper failure. 5 minutes until tour. Must run.
Back in line. Purse spills dumping all contents including personal hygiene products and box of contraband tic tacs.
"No, you may not breathe on the glass and make pictures. Please stop touching everything. Walk in a straight line. Yes, I am sure it will be over soon. Yes, we can go to the gift shop. Please stop asking." Repeat for entire 50 minute tour.
"Shhhh, baby" Baby puts finger on lips and says shhh. Adorable, but not at all effective. Repeat every other minute.
Play silent patty cake and whisper in baby's ear. Oh happy day! A board book. Give board book to baby.
Five whole minutes to pretend to pay attention. Board book goes flying through the air. Narrowly misses the backside of a stranger. Thank God for small miracles.
"Please don't pull up my skirt. Because strangers don't like to see underwear. No, I cannot hold you. No, I do not have a drink. Yes, you can have a tic tac, but you have to be quiet."
Tour over. Sweet Victory!
So, why do I do it? Because I think it's, without question, worth it. No doubt, sometimes it is mind numbingly difficult, but I don't dwell on that part much. If I used that as my meter stick for things that I do, think of all I would miss. Going to college, staying married, having babies, to name a few. Family togetherness, global perspective, and tangible educational experiences are just a few of the long list of benefits purchased with my efforts.
Coming back around to conventional wisdom, it is said that the greater the effort ,the greater the reward. And no doubt, traveling with kids takes effort, but it offers a treasure trove replete with rewards.
I must take a hot bath now, my rewards are catching up with me.