Least you think that life after quitting my job, packing up the house and selling the car to travel half-way around the world with two small children is all pretty scenery and grateful children who can say thank you in multiple languages (so far it’s only two) let me remind you that I am traveling with children. They don’t always take pretty pictures, they get into fights at grocery stores, and sometimes, when you’re trying to buy them diapers and sunscream, they injure each other with kid-sized shopping carts and start screaming at the top of their lungs.
When I called my bank about losing my credit card, the customer care representative, gasped: “AND you’re traveling with two small children?!! How is that?”
“Well, their screaming at checkout is why I lost my credit card so….”
When I called back later and explained the story again to another customer care rep from Texas she said, “I learned a lot from my three children. I learned I shouldn’t have any more children.”
We both laughed. A little too hard. And then hung up akwardly.
I didn’t realize I had left my credit card in Sarajevo until I was in Mostar, a two and half hour drive away. The way there was beautiful — huge tree-covered mountains rising up in front of us, the Neretva River glowing green along our right. Pictures don’t even do it justice.
The kids loved the tunnels and the sharp turns, falling onto each other at every turn and squealing “whooooaaahhhhh,” despite being tethered into their seats. The husband and I were excited. Before we had kids, we would get in the car and just drive, finding small neighborhoods where we would imagine what it would be like to live there. Now, we were doing it with our two girls.
The next day I was trying to haggle over some honey at a local market, and another vendor was trying to force dates and hazelnuts on the girls so I would buy them. I thought we would have fresh bread and honey for breakfast. Maybe I’d learn to cook cevapi. Instead, when I opened my wallet to pay, I realized my card was gone. In a panic, I paid too much for the wrong honey and I yelled at the date seller. I hurried the kids home, went through all my things, and then told my husband, “I have good news and bad news.”
“The good news is that I won’t be spending any more on my credit card,” I said. He looked at me. “So you mean to tell me you lost your card, you’ve already called it in, and you’re getting a new one?”
“So you took care of it. There’s no bad news,” he said and went back to work. Like a boss. A few minutes later, he asked about lunch as he joined another conference call. I miss conference calls. And talking to intelligent adults about things other than lunch, and diapers and lost credit cards.
But being the team-player that I am, I trekked out with the kids to find a pekara or bakery. And because Google maps sucks here, I found one over a kilometer from us, and not the one just meters away. Of course the kids ate nothing despite complaining about hunger pains for hours. As we walked home, cars spewed exhaust at us. We were hot and tired and my back ached from carrying Goose. Everything seemed harder today — I didn’t know where I was, I didn’t speak the language, and I had to do all the normal household tasks while horking a cranky two-year old whose shoes left bruises on my legs. Oh, and I had lost my credit card. Three blocks from home I also lost my temper and made Goose walk, and she was such a tiny ball of rage at the injustice that she took my hand and she bit me. Hard.
This is my life now, I thought. I am being bitten by a tiny tired child in a hot city with actual storm clouds gathering overhead. And I understood why she bit me. She was tired of having things happen to her. And she was kind of justified. I didn’t yell, but I still made her walk home — and got a few “I’ve been there too” looks from other women as she screamed at me. But, when we got home and after she had space to be angry, I hugged on her for several minutes until she finally calmed down.
So traveling with tots is not all glamour shots and exotic locales. It’s the same old shit in a different place with less tools. In between the photos where we look like we’re living the high life, we’re working, and potty training and trying to keep the kids from killing each other or us from killing the kids. I’ve learned to do laundry in three different languages. I go shopping with two minions who suddenly produce Kinder Eggs and Clipsy Chips at check-out like tiny magicians (I suppose it’s better than the five finger discount!). I miss discussing campaign strategy with intelligent adults. And as soon as I try to use the toilet, someone starts screaming my name as if they are mortally wounded. Sometimes I want to bite back too. And sometimes I stay up nights wondering how I can do better by them. Today, I’m going to set the bar low: I’m going to bathe them and find a playground.