The last time I traveled for fun without my husband or family was over a year before my oldest child was even conceived. Traveling to Glasgow for a “Girls’ Weekend” without husband and family in tow was a big first for me. And while I’m calling it a girls’ weekend, I was actually the mom who brought her 9-month old along since he hasn’t weaned yet. But when you have three kids and you leave the loudest, rowdiest ones at home, just traveling with the infant seems like a vacation. Bringing just the baby is easy when you’re used to traveling with a whole circus. So the strollering family split in two for the weekend. The older two got a special weekend at home with daddy while mommy and baby journeyed by train to Scotland. And since the whole family wouldn’t be traveling, and both my strollers are meant for multiple kids, we ditched the stroller for the weekend too. It was weird. And liberating and just plain different.
We traveled with a baby carrier, a diaper bag, and a backpack. No stroller, no suitcase. Which, in general, worked very well and made getting on and off trains and avoiding long lift (elevator) lines to switch platforms super easy. It also meant that when restless baby grew weary of the carrier and was eventually set free I had my hands full. Without my husband to quickly hand him off to and no stroller to strap him into, both hands are constantly needed to restrain an on-the-go nine month old on a train. But we made it work.
We even survived our accidental (thank you, husband) seat reservations in the “quiet coach” on our train rides. Each happy squawk was accompanied by polite (we are in England after all) glares from the couple sitting across from me. There’s nothing more miserable than feeling self-conscious and trying to shush your happy child for every coo. So we moved. But I should have realized there was a reason we so easily snagged two unoccupied seats in the standard, no noise rules coach. There was a stag (bachelor) party that had decided to start their festivities a bit early while occupying the rear of the coach. And they were LOUD. No need to worry about my child’s happy squeals here. Apparently drunken singing sounds a lot like his siblings’ raucous playing because he slept well in our noisy coach.
We arrived in Glasgow without fanfare and easily walked the half mile to our hotel in the heart of Glasgow’s Merchant City. It was barely six in the evening and the sun wouldn’t set for another four hours. My friends weren’t set to arrive until morning. We checked into the hotel and little man happily explored every nook and cranny of the apartment suite.
It was too quiet. I’d at least had the serenading stag party on the train to mimic the noise and chaos I’ve grown accustomed to. But now the only sound I heard was periodic cooing and little hands smacking each new surface my baby discovered. It was the first time I realized how much I talk to my three- and five-year-old. We are constantly in a state of conversation, whether it’s a scolding or discussing why dessert can’t come before dinner, there is always a conversation taking place. Any conversation with a nine month old is either completely one sided or a strange exchange of coos and squeals. We’ve spent countless late nights and early mornings just the two of us, as his internal clock learns day from night. But this opportunity to spend time with just my youngest and give him my undivided attention felt different. Different than my exhausted middle-of-the night attention. Different than my annoyed ‘why won’t you nap’ attention when his siblings are napping in the afternoon and I can’t get anything accomplished. We had nowhere else to be and nothing else that needed to be done in Glasgow that evening. So we stayed in the hotel room and played.
As my little man finally grew tired around 8, we decided to venture out and explore the city. The last time I was in Scotland was January and I lamented about the sun setting at 4 (see The Golden Rule for Travelling with Kids) . Now here I was in June with a solid two more hours before the sun would set. It was wonderful. My charming travel companion even accompanied me to dinner at a nice Italian restaurant and promptly passed out in my arms so I could enjoy my meal in peace. We slept ten hours that first night with only one middle of the night feeding. It was shaping up to be a restful weekend.