Taking Things Slow

slow

When we finally got to Starbucks, the kids chowed down.

The sun has been setting super-early here in recent weeks, which has forced the girls and me to devise new strategies for play sessions after R’s nap. Some days, the girls and I take a bus to someplace fun and explore by the lights of the city. On super-cold days, like today, we stay closer to home, often wandering around the neighborhood, just for the sake of getting out.

These excursions are less about where we’re headed and more about the journey itself. As we wander, the girls jump off stoops, inspect fallen leaves, sing Taylor Swift songs (yes, really) and point at helicopters flying overhead.

And, as you can imagine, with so many activities and distractions, we don’t move very quickly. In fact, we make slugs look speedy.

Tonight, for instance, a “simple” stroll to the local Starbucks, eight blocks from our flat, took 36 minutes. To put that into perspective, in the same amount of time, we could have watched an entire episode of Seinfeld AND made a grilled cheese. I also could have written this blog post.

Some might be bothered by this pace. As for me, I kind of love it. My job keeps me up late every night. I’m up early to get the girls ready and drop L at school. Every day—even weekends—has lots going on.

And that’s precisely why these ambles with the kiddos are so damn fun.

I’ve written posts that touch upon this notion before, posts about the benefit of nothing on a family trip. I can’t stress the importance of slowing down strongly enough. At a time when so many of us family travelers are rushing off to see this museum or that famous landmark, an era when so many of us moms and dads program ourselves to shuttle kids from school to football practice and ballet, having a few hours just to be with the kids is a wonderful gift.

Even if these walks force me to wait for my triple tall Americano, even if they make us human icicles by the time we get home, the aimless strolls I take with my girls are a critical component of bonding as a brood. I’ve got all the patience in the world to move at their pace. After all, who knows how much longer they’ll even want me to come?

 To what extent do you factor in “nothing time” with your family when you travel?

Feeling Our Way in the Dark

Sisters. At St. Luke's Garden Playground. In the light.

Sisters. At St. Luke’s Garden Playground. In the light.

The conversion to Standard Time from Daylight Savings Time always is a dicey one for parents with young kids. Little ones wake up earlier. They’re crankier before dinner. Midday naps can go horribly awry.

Thankfully, here in London, we’ve experienced none of these usual problems. Instead, we find ourselves faced with another challenge: Exploring in the dark.

It’s a matter of logistics. R naps from about 130 p.m. local time to 330 p.m. local time every day. Once she wakes up, the process of changing her diaper, feeding her snack, getting her dressed to go out and actually clambering down three flights of stairs generally takes about 45 minutes. This means we’re headed out for our afternoon/evening adventures around 415 p.m.

Which gives us less than one hour of post-nap sunlight to do stuff every day.

On Monday, for instance, we arrived at a local park just as the sun was setting, and proceeded to stick around until it was so dark we couldn’t see the ball we were trying to kick. One day last week (we set clocks back Oct. 27 here), a simple errand to the local pharmacy required the extra purchase of a flashlight to see the way home.

Perhaps the biggest adjustment has been with playground time; because most playgrounds here are run by the city, they close before the sun even begins its descent—at 3:45 p.m.

Of course we learned about the playgrounds the hard way. That fateful day, as I tried to hide my disappointment from the girls, a mom walking by smiled and cheerily offered, “Welcome to London in winter!” I was not pleased.

So far, our solution has been to create a new schedule. On days when the girls want/need playground time, we push back R’s nap to get in an hour while it’s still light. On days when R goes down at regular time, we have what I’ve started calling, “Walkabout,” which consists of nothing more than putting on hats and jackets, taking the flashlight and wandering on foot.

As the temperatures drop, I imagine we’ll transform these evening strolls into evening bus rides or something like that. Nothing like feeling your way in the dark.

How has the time change impacted your travel experiences?

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