Nothing can prepare you for having your first child. No matter how much advice you receive, or books that you read, there is really no preparation for the real thing. Then, your newborn child arrives and everything changes: your orientation, desires and, of course, the patterns of daily life. I recall that when our first child arrived, I was amazed how much our lives were regulated by 3 simple activities: eating, sleeping and pooping. I don’t mean to sound crude, but that is reality with a baby. Any failure to address these matters at the time of a baby’s immediate need (and I mean any), was met with urgent crying, whining and/or unimaginable odors which would infiltrate your environs. But, of course, your kids eventually grow up.
Ironically, we have re-entered this stage in our lives with our current 'trip of a lifetime' cycling across Europe. Albeit, our children are now older, 12 and 13 years, but the patterns of our daily life on the road have, again, become consumed by these 3 simple life activities: eating, sleeping and pooping. In lieu of crying, we now get flares of anger (completely normal for our adolescent boys, not acceptable for a parent), occasional whining and yes, the odors still persist.
Compound these daily activities with foreign cultural norms, which we sometimes don't realize and other times forget. For instance, nothing is open on a Sunday, which creates a serious problem when we forget to buy food ahead of time (hey kids, we’re going to practice ‘fasting’ ahead of Lent this year…). And, of course, the concept of ‘paying’ to use the bathroom is literally a foreign concept (anyone have 2 quarters for 5 dollars? I mean 5 euros).
While cycling across the European country-side our kids have come to appreciate these “basic needs”. Good to plan for, important to meet, and without which people may turn crabby, hungry, tired, or constipated. But sometimes we miss a beat, and as every parent would say, it is a “character-building” opportunity. And really, that is why we are doing this trip: to build character---even if it means we (aka parents) might have to run into the bushes on the side of the road too.