As I parked next to our old condo and walked up the incline to the park, I watched my son. I waited for his eyes to light up with recognition. For him to run to the gate and make a beeline for his favorite blue dump truck.
This didn't happen.
Instead, he clung to me as he does when he enters unfamiliar territory. He studied the trees, and slides, and soon, he was playing. But he played because it was a park. He ran about with other children because he loves children. As his mother I've seen his eyes light up with recognition at spots he loves and remembers, and though we must have visited this park over 100 times in the six months we lived here, he remembered none of it.
K has a conference in San Diego in a few weeks. It's in a hotel walkable to shops and restaurants. When I learned of it, I was excited. I could meet my agent, take Waleed to the San Diego Zoo, and play with him at the beaches, and chase him down the piers. Except, as it turns out, there's a catch: The flight to San Diego departs at 8:45pm. Well past bedtime. It lands at 2am which means we'll get to our hotel around 3am. Some kids are easy on planes and long drives and pass out when they're tired. My son is not one of those kids. He won't meltdown, but he won't sleep unless he's in a quiet dark room. In other words, as much as I can bring his PJs and bed time stories and a glass of milk, he is not going to sleep. He's going to pull an all nighter. So we'll pull an all nighter. Consequently he's going to have a rough night. And at least one rough day as he adjusts to the sleep deprivation, overstimulation and time-zone change. And that means, we will too. I've been perplexed if this flight time, and my son's one night of pure and literal insomnia means its just not worth going at all.
In this vein I asked a parent listserv for any personal experiences with an overnight flight and what they recommended. I got lots of great advice and one that has left me really thinking:
Here is the deal. The toddler will have no more fun going to the San Diego zoo than to the Yellow River Game ranch, and whether it’s the beach or Lake Lanier will make no difference to him. He probably has just as much fun with a puddle. He will also not recall anything about this trip when he’s older. We don’t tend to store this kind of info before age 4 in a way that we can retrieve it.
So the trip is not for him, it’s for you.This hit me like a sack of koala bears to the gut. As much as I want to go to San Diego for me, I also wanted to go because I think my son would have a good time. But she's right. Waleed forgot Toy Park. San Diego? He won't remember any of it.
And yet this doesn't sit fully right with me. He won't remember storytimes, and Gymboree. He won't remember the playdates, or the trips to the park. So is it not worthwhile? I'd like to think despite the lack of memories, he's gaining something. That somehow his experiences are shaping the toddler he is, the boy he is quickly turning into, and the man he will become. That as much as we get joy from doing things with him, that he is also getting something out of this as well, lack of memories notwithstanding. Granted, we haven't taken him to Disney because he won't really remember it [and its uber-pricey] but how far does one take this rationale based on lack of recollection?
If you made it this far down, my question is really two-fold. Does your child's memories or lack thereof guide choices you make on the things you do with them? And, regarding traveling with a toddler who will stay wide awake like a perky bunny on three cups of espressos, what would you do? Stay home and stick with the routine, or go knowing that there will be a few days of it kind of sort of sucking? Ever done an overnight or lengthy car-drive/flight with a toddler? Any advice or insight much appreciated!