At the risk of sounding like a terrible human being, one of my first thoughts when I heard about the fire at Notre Dame in Paris was relief. Of course I was concerned about the safety of those in and around the famous cathedral, of course I was heartbroken at the loss of so much history; I just could not help feeling thankful that we had been lucky enough to visit the cathedral two years ago with our son.
There is a big question when it comes to travelling with kids: what’s the point if they don’t remember? Why spend thousands of dollars on something they won’t even care about three years from now? Why go through the tantrums, the headaches, the complaints of “my feet hurt” and “I’m bored” when you can stay home and listen to all of that in the comfort of your own home? They’re not going to remember anyway.
Because maybe all of parenting isn’t about the kids. I know it’s radical but stay with me here. Doing things for ourselves makes us better parents. And doing things as a family brings us together. Whether it’s visiting the museum that’s 5 minutes down the road or a multi-country European vacation, there’s value in going somewhere new.
Does my son remember seeing some old church? No. Does he remember the delicious brioche we ate on the park bench on the way over? No. Does he remember the sunshine and the smiles? Maybe not specifically. But I do.
I remember how he walked all over Paris with barely any complaints. I remember his eyes dancing as he watched his gelato being shaped into a flower as big as his head. I remember his nervousness and excitement at touring Marie Curie’s now decontaminated laboratory. Yes, I even remember considering not waiting in the long line to get into Notre Dame, because kids, but doing it anyway because Paris and making the wait fun. I remember watching him learning and growing as a human being. I remember watching the little pieces falling into place, shaping the adult he will one day be.
As much as he doesn’t remember the details, he learns something every time we venture somewhere new. Maybe I’m trying to justify my own selfishness, but I truly believe that travel changes us, even if we’re too young to remember in what way.
I know that I am so fortunate to be able to take my son places and give him experiences. I don’t take it for granted. Life happens– beautiful cathedrals burn and are forever changed, people die, and kids grow up. And waiting until my kid can remember it isn’t always an option. One day, he’ll go back with his own kids and that will be his moment to remember. Until then, I have beautiful photos to show him and fun stories to tell him. And maybe that’s selfish of me, but I’m going to cherish it.