The inbox fairy must have been alerted that my day was slated to be a real pooper, because when she chimed her happy little “you’ve got mail” signal, she had something special waiting for me.
Right there in my inbox was a perfectly penned note from an author I have followed and admired for the better part of the last decade. I’m not sure why my first instinct was that I was in trouble, but I forgot all about that when I noted that she was asking me if I would offer an expert opinion on an article she was writing.
That sweeping statement was enough to give my brain a brief respite from the totally lousy news I had received from the asthma doctor that my baby boy was highly allergic to practically every known environmental element in all of Christendom. Bogged down in rescue inhalers and asthma protocol and allergy shot decisions, I needed a little professional upper to take the sting out of my new normal.
With aplomb, I dashed off a return email with requested expert information, and then gave myself a pinch combined with a teeny tiny pat on the back. As soon, as I hit send, though, that troubled feeling was tapping on my shoulder again, but this time, I knew exactly why.
I had no claim to being any kind of expert.
This was not the first time I had experienced this phenomenon. A lifetime ago, before travel writing was even a glimmer in my eye, I was a young, blushing bride-to-be. Like any new challenge, I had met it head on, with stacks of Bride Magazine, and the entire bridal section of the library by my bed. Before I even had time to spread the news of the engagement-this was the era before Facebook, my young friends-I was fluent in wedding.
So, it happened that I found myself in the wedding aisle of craft store drooling over tiny little favor boxes and feathery guest book pens, when I realized that I was not alone. Another bride and her mother had scurried up to the silk flowers and were bantering over the best choice for their upcoming nuptial event. I was immediately struck by the kinship of the moment, and I lifted my eyes to eavesdrop on their wedding plans. That’s when I saw it. In one hand the mother of the bride was holding a taffeta swatch, and in the other hand she was decisively holding a bunch of fake flowers. The culmination of the two was a tie dyed, rainbow popsicle catastrophe that should never, never make its way down any aisle.
Met with the explosion of teal taffeta and lime green roses with (gag) fake dewdrops on the petals, I did the only decent thing I could do in that situation.
I smiled. I made eye contact. And then I lied through my teeth.
“Hi, my name is Jessica and I am a wedding coordinator. I couldn’t help, but overhear that you are planning a wedding and I just wanted to a make a couple of suggestions.”
I continued to smile, as I surreptitiously shoved the dewdrop disaster back into the rack and began to pontificate about the trend for champagne roses for that wedding season. The duo could have turned me over to store security, but instead the both looked relieved as they chose a tasteful bouquet.
I watched from the corner as they made their purchase, and smiled inwardly, knowing that the fakery of my expert status had probably saved this girl a lifetime of wedding photo regrets. It was a gamble, for sure, but I think it paid off and I hope she went on to have a delightfully, clash-free wedding.
My travel experience is much the same, although I promise there is very little lying through my teeth in my travel stories. When I started out traveling with kids, I hardly knew what I was doing as a parent, much less as a traveler. But, I met the challenge head on, read up on the whys and hows of traveling with children, and then just put myself out there.
“Hi, my name is Jessica and I am traveling parent.” <Smile, look confident, don't let on that you don't know what you are doing>
I had no idea if I was going to succeed or fail at the challenge of traveling with kids, but I was at least willing to attempt to fake it until I found out.
Along the way, I have learned plenty of lessons-usually the hard way-about how to make traveling with children easier, and even awesome. But, as much as I have learned, I am still faking it.
Every day as a parent, and every trip that involves children has a certain instability associated with it. There is always a bit of a bluff, and although I have enough trips through airport security and frequent flyer with children miles to claim expert status, I know better.
I am not an expert, and I never will be.
~First Plane Ride as a Mom. That look in my eye is not hairspray poisoning, but uncertainty~
There is always more to learn and there are always new circumstances in which I will feel delightfully tenuous in my ability to handle it. I’ve learned to be comfortable with that. I don’t have to be an expert, I just have to have the confidence to take what I do know and step out on faith. What I don’t know, I’ll learn along the way.