Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Almost at the Finish - a Look Back at Parts of England

Our month long vacation comes to a close soon. To all my friends who encouraged me not to be intimidated by international travel with children, I am grateful. Possibly the thing I love most about being a parent is seeing things through my children's eyes. And though they weren't the ones who spotted the "elderly crossing" as we traveled to Avebury, or the "there is no dog poop fairy" sign on the trashcan at the head of our walk through the English countryside, they noticed plenty.

You see, there's something amazing about a functioning public transit system. We pay 8.25 pounds each day to ride a fast train from Saint Albans to London. Then, we ride the underground, overground, or bus wherever we want, with just the wave of a card. When we hop on the bus, we take the effort to climb to the second story - and Connor and Helen are absolutely right, the view really is better from up there - and I've learned that there's more to riding a bus than getting from point A to point B. We've stopped at Paddington station just to see Paddington's statue, and we'll try and run through platform 9 and three-quarters on our way out of London for the final time. Because tube stations can be fun places with interesting things to see.

No, our visit to the Tate Modern wasn't exactly my dream of an art museum, and apologies to Meschac Gaba for knocking down the blocks - but no apology to the docents who placed pressure on my destroyers to rebuild the structure. The sign clearly stated the blocks were for touching. And it was just too much temptation - all those blocks stacked into a house, and then that lady tipping down one row with her shoe. It could only be seen as an invitation. More people laughed at the Tate that day than have in a while, I'm certain. Plus, it sort of showed that art is, indeed, alive - and sometimes, art is ridiculous. (Sadly, no photo, as I'm pretty sure cameras weren't allowed, and we'd destroyed enough for one visit - but I do have a photo of the sculpture they created in the children's space of the museum.)

Eventually Connor asked "How many castles does one queen need?" but he had a point, and it was the perfect opportunity for Ed to start telling the story of the end of the powerful monarchy and the transition to a House of Parliament. Always, there are lessons.

This trip stretches the adult's mind as much as the child's - because in order for Stonehenge to be exciting to a 5 and 7 year old, you have to figure out how to explain that something standing for over 4,500 is a miracle. Just what the heck is 4,500 years, anyway?

With children, it's impossible to be "on-the-go" constantly, and taking breaks at various festivals and playgrounds has proven to be great relief for the adults as well. We digest, they run. And while they're running, they learn how to overtake a castle at Old Sarum and then defend it an hour later. Many thanks to the docents there who had my children shouting for justice and wrapping the day up bludgeoning each other with foam swords. That's the kind of break one needs before heading to Avebury.

The wardens at the Tower of London managed to entertain all four of us and we didn't even feel like beheading either of our children - even after walking through long displays of jewels and armory - the kind of thing that could put a child on edge.

We wouldn't have gone to Hamleys and been serenaded in honor of Connor's 8th birthday, or taken the time to go to Kew Gardens or the Diana, Princess of Wales Kensington Playground if it weren't for Connor and Helen. And it's not that I've loved all of these places, but I have loved seeing a part of the world with my children.

I'm going to miss this place when we leave.


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