Don’t let the anti-vaxers win

Fear of contracting measles could have stopped this trip.

Fear of contracting measles could have stopped this trip.

I try as much as possible to stay away from politics here on this blog—those sorts of discussions are insidious, incendiary, and, most of the time, just plain irritating.

That said, it’s hard to ignore the recent hullabaloo over the resurgence of the measles virus, the role the anti-vaccination crowd has played in this resurgence, and the degree to which traveling with young children could put your family at risk of becoming one of the statistics.

I’m not going to rehash all the facts; for a solid rundown of how this mess got started, you can click here. I’m also not going to argue the science—if literally tens of thousands of doctors (and children’s book author, Roald Dahl) say vaccines are good, I don’t really understand how anyone could disagree. Still, because some parents believe vaccines are bad, the vulnerability they’re perpetuating in their kids essentially puts the rest of us with young kids (especially those who are too young to be fully vaccinated) in the line of fire to contract some pretty major health problems.

In recent days I’ve read a number of articles (such as this one) quoting parents who have canceled trips to Disneyland and other family trips out of fear of their kids contracting the disease.

Every time I read one of these stories, I want to scream: WUSSIES!

Don’t get me wrong; the threat of illness is real. And for families with babies who are too young to receive the measles vaccination, the decision of whether to go or not is, as the CDC tells us, serious business. But for those of us with kids over the age of 2 (or 4 or 6, depending on which researchers you choose to believe) to let this threat—or just about any other threat, IMHO—stop us from living our lives, THAT is the real tragedy of all.

So much of family travel is about setting examples for our kids. Do you want them to mimic your tendencies to live in fear?

The reality is that we all take significant risks the moment we leave the house every morning. You could be in a fatal car crash. My kids could be abducted. I could have a heart attack. Heck, in today’s day and age, any one of us could be the victim of terrorism or just a really violent temper-tantrum by a madman.

Whether you like it or not, anti-vaxers are among us, which means all of us are at risk of coming into contact with the measles virus at pretty much any time. Traveling may heighten this risk a little, but the risk is there nevertheless. In other words, scary shit is everywhere. So why stop traveling?

There are a lot of things in this life that can put us in danger of illness and eventually death. Travel, on the other hand, enriches us, nurtures our souls, teaches us about the world around us, and helps us strengthen a foundation of understanding in ourselves and our kids. Travel heightens the living parts of each of us. It’s the absolute last thing we should relinquish.

And so, I beg you: If you’ve got plans to travel and one of your kids hasn’t been vaccinated for measles, don’t freak. Instead, get the kid a vaccine, get some face masks. Get some gloves. And be diligent about keeping your child’s hands out of his or her mouth and face.

If you don’t have plans to travel and are shying away from doing so because of this issue, get over yourself and get out there. The world won’t wait for anti-vaxers. And it certainly won’t wait for you.

If Pants Could Talk

Moments before the "Rose Incident"

Moments before the “Rose Incident”

Hey, you two little twerps, now you listen here:

We might be old. And we might be made of corduroy, one of the most durable materials in recent history. But we are tired—TIRED, we say!—of the way you two treat us when the Villanos hit the road as a family.

I know what you’re thinking, kids. YOU’RE the daughters and we’re the pants. You’re sentient; we are not. You’ve got hearts, brains, free will and all sorts of organs, while we consist of nothing more than fabric, thread, some zippers and a pocket or two. Well, we might be simple, but here’s a news flash for you: WE HAVE FEELINGS, TOO.

L, this means we’re tired of you spilling your milk all over us. Three times in the last three weeks, you’ve failed to grab your cup with two hands and carelessly knocked it over onto us. Sure, you’ve been stoked when you’ve realized the spills haven’t ruined the precious pictures you have colored during meals.

But, princess, those spills have gotten us SOAKED.

R, you are more of a solid-spiller. Mushy lemon cake, yogurt, cheesy (scrambled) eggs and tomato guts from Mommy’s salad are among the items you’ve dropped on us over the last few weeks. Then, of course, there was the incident earlier today, when, aboard a train (from England’s Lake District back to London), you knocked over a whole glass of rose wine onto our crotch.

The rose was the last straw. Especially considering how the wine seeped down the crotch and around the back, making it look as if your father had wet AND soiled his pants, we had to take a stand.

Which is precisely why we’re writing this note.

For whatever reason (perhaps it’s our good looks? Or maybe our versatility?), your father likes wearing us on travel days. He counts on us. And if you girls keep dumping and spilling stuff on us, he might opt for another pair. Because the one thing we don’t do is dry quickly.

And so, kids, we are begging you: SHOW US SOME RESPECT! We’re not rags! We’re pants, and your daddy’s favorite pair at that. We look forward to having the opportunities to ride horses in the Sahara, watch whales in the South Pacific and circumambulate Manhattan Island. Please don’t spoil our chances by ruining us first.

Sincerely,
Dad’s green cords

The Most Kid-Friendly Travel Destination Ever?

L shows off a winning handful.

L shows off a winning handful.

In my experience as a parent, the most kid-friendly travel destinations involve adventure, interactivity, constantly changing scenery (to keep things interesting), and a quest. They take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. They spark imagination. And they allow for souvenirs.

For all of these reasons, Glass Beach, part of MacKerricher State Park in the tiny Northern California town of Fort Bragg, might just be the most kid-friendly travel destination ever.

As its name suggests, the beach is known for glass—specifically, beach glass. And there’s a whole lot of it; so much so that in any given handful bits of beach glass outnumber rocks by a margin of 10 to 1. Most of the bits have been smoothed and rounded by the churning of the ocean. For kids who like hunting for treasure and sparkly stuff, it’s the perfect activity for an epic day.

Also important: It’s totally free.

I first visited the beach eight years ago with my wife (on a trip to celebrate my first section-front feature in the San Francisco Chronicle). This past weekend, as part of a 3-day road-trip along the Mendocino County coast, I went back—this time with my two daughters.

To put it simply, the girls could not believe their eyes. My older daughter, L, thought I had brought her to a secret land of jewels. My favorite of her exclamations: “Daddy, the beach is glimmering!”

It helped that we selected a cove where there were no other humans in sight. From a parking lot near the trailhead, we hiked about a quarter-mile on an access path flanked on one side by wildflowers. Then we descended a steep trail to the beach—a typical NorCal affair, complete with bull kelp, natty sea grass, sand fleas and millions and millions of tiny rocks.

We spent about an hour down there, sifting through handfuls of rocks and glass to put together a modest collection. I instructed the girls to look for the rarest types: red and blue. They came up empty on those fronts, but ended up with a Ziploc baggie full of white, green and brown.

(Technically, at least according to signs all over the place, we weren’t supposed to take the glass off the beach. To any state park officials reading this: I confess. I’m guilty. I did it for the kids. And I’d do it again.)

The beach itself has a colorful (pun intended) history. One of my travel-writing buddies, Susan Kim, did a piece for Coastal Living a few years back on the place; in it, she notes that most of the glass comes from the site’s former life as a dump.

Of course I didn’t explain the true story to my girls. Instead, I let them tell the tales. L, who is developing an imagination to rival J.K. Rowling’s, said the “glass jewels” had been sent to shore by ocean princesses who wanted little girls to enjoy them. R, my younger daughter, was content to chant, “Beach glass! Beach glass!” incessantly (until a sand flea or seagull distracted her).

Three days later (and counting), the girls are still talking about the experience.

Here at home, the glass lives in a tiny jar, and L has counted the contents at least a dozen times. If R can’t spot the jar on the counter, she yells, “Where’s [the] beach glass?” until someone points it out. There have been pictures of the beach glass. Songs about it. Even some poems.

If all of this doesn’t prove that Glass Beach is the most kid-friendly travel destination ever, I’m not sure what else could.

What are some of your favorite kid-friendly travel destinations and why?

 

 

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