advice, motherhood, parenting, pregnancy, toy park, travel

The San Diego dilemma and memories– or the lack thereof

I love my son’s spiral curls, the way they bounce on his head when he runs from room to room on tip toes, a car of some sort always in hand. But as much as I love them, I knew it was time for a hair cut. I made an appointment with Miss Lisa who cuts just enough to retain the curls and this morning Waleed and I headed to Decatur, my old haunt, where I lived for six months. I felt nostalgic as we drove down the familiar roads, all the memories of this lovely walkable town rushing back to me. Miss Lisa was great. The hair cut, though making him appear college-bound as opposed to my little guy, looked fabulous, and we headed off to Toy Park. When we lived in our condo, we essentially lived in Toy Park. Every single day, unless a tornado was in fact sighted on the premises, we headed there, where my son would swing, slide, and play with the donated toys.

As I parked next to our old condo and walked up the incline to the park, I watched my son. I waited for his eyes to light up with recognition. For him to run to the gate and make a beeline for his favorite blue dump truck.

This didn’t happen.

Instead, he clung to me as he does when he enters unfamiliar territory. He studied the trees, and slides, and soon, he was playing. But he played because it was a park. He ran about with other children because he loves children. As his mother I’ve seen his eyes light up with recognition at spots he loves and remembers, and though we must have visited this park over 100 times in the six months we lived here, he remembered none of it.

K has a conference in San Diego in a few weeks. It’s in a hotel walkable to shops and restaurants. When I learned of it, I was excited. I could meet my agent, take Waleed to the San Diego Zoo, and play with him at the beaches, and chase him down the piers. Except, as it turns out, there’s a catch: The flight to San Diego departs at 8:45pm. Well past bedtime. It lands at 2am which means we’ll get to our hotel around 3am. Some kids are easy on planes and long drives and pass out when they’re tired. My son is not one of those kids. He won’t meltdown, but he won’t sleep unless he’s in a quiet dark room. In other words, as much as I can bring his PJs and bed time stories and a glass of milk, he is not going to sleep. He’s going to pull an all nighter. So we’ll pull an all nighter. Consequently he’s going to have a rough night. And at least one rough day as he adjusts to the sleep deprivation, overstimulation and time-zone change. And that means, we will too. I’ve been perplexed if this flight time, and my son’s one night of pure and literal insomnia means its just not worth going at all.

In this vein I asked a parent listserv for any personal experiences with an overnight flight and what they recommended. I got lots of great advice and one that has left me really thinking:

Here is the deal. The toddler will have no more fun going to the San Diego zoo than to the Yellow River Game ranch, and whether it’s the beach or Lake Lanier will make no difference to him. He probably has just as much fun with a puddle. He will also not recall anything about this trip when he’s older. We don’t tend to store this kind of info before age 4 in a way that we can retrieve it.

So the trip is not for him, it’s for you.

This hit me like a sack of koala bears to the gut. As much as I want to go to San Diego for me, I also wanted to go because I think my son would have a good time. But she’s right. Waleed forgot Toy Park. San Diego? He won’t remember any of it.

And yet this doesn’t sit fully right with me. He won’t remember storytimes, and Gymboree. He won’t remember the playdates, or the trips to the park. So is it not worthwhile? I’d like to think despite the lack of memories, he’s gaining something. That somehow his experiences are shaping the toddler he is, the boy he is quickly turning into, and the man he will become. That as much as we get joy from doing things with him, that he is also getting something out of this as well, lack of memories notwithstanding. Granted, we haven’t taken him to Disney because he won’t really remember it [and its uber-pricey] but how far does one take this rationale based on lack of recollection?

If you made it this far down, my question is really two-fold. Does your child’s memories or lack thereof guide choices you make on the things you do with them? And, regarding traveling with a toddler who will stay wide awake like a perky bunny on three cups of espressos, what would you do? Stay home and stick with the routine, or go knowing that there will be a few days of it kind of sort of sucking? Ever done an overnight or lengthy car-drive/flight with a toddler? Any advice or insight much appreciated!

19 thoughts on “The San Diego dilemma and memories– or the lack thereof”

  1. You are pregnant! Mash'Allah- congratulations. Go! You don't always have the chance. Yes you make the memories bu reiterating and recounting the story of the trip for years to come. We remember what our parents incorporated into the family stories and you need to go to make the stories happen.


  2. OMG so true! And I never thought of it like this. I think that sometimes we focus a bit too much on the things we want to do/the things we want to give to our children. They won't remember all of that. But they will remember that we were there for them. I'm 33 and I know I remember walking home from school holding my dad's hand. I remember him drying my hair after a dash in the rain. I remember my mum ALWAYS being there for me when I had any of those childhood aches and pains. I remember bus rides to visit my nan with my mum and brother. I think that most of these things happened after the age of about 5 but these are the things that really stand out in my memory of my childhood and give me that warm fuzzy feeling. We travelled a lot too, but it's snippets of conversations that we had or laughs together that really really stand out. Ok, I've rambled and written my own blog post lol! These are the thoughts I had after reading your post! Go on the trip for all of you, do your best with Waleed but I know he will enjoy just being with you and K and it will be a nice break before baby turns up too. xxx


  3. We should live in the moment and who cares if he will remember it? And who is to say he won't? To me it's like saying that I shouldn't go visit my nana with dementia because she won't remember and she doesn't even know who I am. It will bring you both joy and you will remember!!:) Pixie


  4. I see nothing wrong with taking the trip just for you. YOU'LL remember the zoo and the awesome city. Take Waleed with you and have a great time. Yes, the flight will be awful, but don't let that overshadow the great time you can have. I'd go in a heartbeat. I can't imagine NOT going! Have fun! Go to the zoo! Ride the trolley! Make memories for you!


  5. I wonder if the kids really don't remember at all. Maybe he's simply “moved on” 😉 Kids at that age live totally in the present. Toy Park was his universe a couple of months ago, now something else is.
    As for travelling, I'd say – go, do it. It's true that W. would enjoy a local outing just as much, but he'll enjoy being with his parents and YOU will enjoy seeing him discover San Diego.
    His reaction to travelling would probably make me hesitate, too. We have travelled very little with the kids for fear of what a radical change out of routine might do to everyone. Sometimes I wonder though if we shouldn't just do it anyway.



  6. Go. The memory really is for you! To experience these things with him, to tuck away those experiences as a precious family time you spent together, a memory you can all talk about together — even if he doesn't remember the specifics… many memories I've found with my older (college) kids are recreated in the reminisces we've had over the years. As for the kids? They have many memories from their childhood, some are re-creations, some are bits and pieces they remember — some from big trips but many from very tiny daily things I'd never have thought they would remember, so you never know! (p.s. we made a very memorable trip to San Diego when my kids were young, and my daughter (4 at the time) still talks of it vividly! And we drove there from Colorado. LOVED the drive, brought lots of activities and snacks, stopped frequently!)


  7. Like you said, their experiences now do shape the ppl they will become later. But the point of the commentator is not not to give him experiences but that the things that make San Diego unique won't make a difference to those experiences. A zoo is a zoo (at this age), etc. That doesn't mean you shouldn't go if you want to. I just want to say that her comment is true and so is your statement that the experiences our kids go through matter.



  8. My kids won't remember any of these European countries we vacation to while living in Germany. But we keep going places. We have tons of memories and photos to share with them when they are older and can remember things like this. It's hard and very tiring at times, but my husband and I think it is worth it to us (and the girls) so we keep doing it.

    3 trans-Altantic flights into this journey with 2yr and 13mo olds: get LOTS of small cheap new toys he's never seen before for the flight to keep him occupied. (bandaids, pipe cleaners, staking/nesting/building toys, balloons to blow up while flying, stickers, coloring book + new crayons, post-it-notes, etc, whatever he likes to do…doesn't have to be a 'toy') The iPad with favorite movies and episodes of Curious George seem to work well, too…


  9. Fruitful thanks for sharing your lovely anecodetes, and the reminder that its not the things we do but who we do them with and the feelings of joy and warmth that we remember most! 🙂

    Pixie, that's a really great point. Thanks!


  10. Cheryll, that's true, I guess going for me is not so bad, lol, but I guess its just that if I'm going for him in large part, I will be quite drained from the flight and the being on my own, so I better really want to go badly! 🙂


  11. Rachel, thanks for your input!

    Natalie, that's true, we have done a lot of travel with W, he's done a ton of flights and its always difficult, and the transition to sleep and hotels is NEVER fun but we are glad we've done all the trips we had. I think that the expectations just have to be lowered considerably. I still do worry about the timing of this flight and how it might trigger a big hotel room full of grumpy people due to sleep that might negate the entire purpose of tagging along to the trip. But we'll see insh'Allah, thanks for your opinion on it!

    Julia, thanks so much for your own personal take. I love hearing from you since your kids are a bit ahead of my own and so you have the luxury of hindsight that I do not currently have. Makes me reallyw ant to go now! Thanks again!


  12. Rasha, you're right, she is definitely correct. That's whyw e haven't taken him to Disney. Because I know he'd love it but at the same time he gets a kick out of going to PetSmart and looking at the animals there to likely the same degree. He definitely won't be at at a loss or disadvantaged if we don't take the trip for sure— but since it would be something only I'd remember I do wonder if its worth the hassle.

    Hausmiller, have you ever done any of your flights overnight or red-eyes? How do they fare on those and how long does it take to recover from it for them, just a day or so?


  13. My son (our second child) is about a month older than W. We travel a lot as I live in the West Coast and my family is spread out, mostly in Texas. What works for us, esp on red-eye flights is to drag the carseat onto the plane. He falls asleep after the initial excitement of the plane ride. Once we get to out destination, I try to maintain some sort of schedule, but that doesn't always happen, so we just deal with his constant sleep interference. In fact, we went to Bangladesh (and yes, took the carseat) and dealt with jetlag, but still continued with all of the activities. (We are the ones that went to ATL during Labor Day Weekend. He would sleep while in the car and just did what we did!)

    If you are up to it, I suggest you go and enjoy CA. Once #2 comes, Insha Allah, it will take more to travel just for the fun of it! Since you are travelling with your husband, bring the carseat on the plane (Britax is FAA approved, but then small planes it does not work) and then at the hotel room, keep it dark and quiet..he may sleep!).

    Good Luck and Safe Travel!


  14. Well, both of the trans-Atlantic flights from the States to Europe were over night for us. We left AZ in the early evening and arrived in Germany the next morning. We have a 8 or 9 hour time difference to deal with so the recovery takes about a week before we're all normal. Going from East to West is better for recovery, though. Kids bounce back much more quickly in that direction.

    Since my girls are little, and too young to fully reason with, I did not try to impose a bed time or strict nap time. I wanted the flight to be as enjoyable for me AND my fellow passengers. This means keeping them happy and quiet. I had to let Big Ive walk the plane many times when people were sleeping, but she was really good about being quiet and not bothering people. We would chat with the flight attendants in the back and they would willingly re-fill her juice cup, which she thought was great.

    I did carry benedryl with me, but I never used it on the kids. To me, that is a last-resort-my-kid-is-screaming-and-I-can't-do-anything-else-to-help-on-this-plane. And it never got to that. I hope it will be even easier in December when we go back as Big Ive can talk and tell me what she needs/wants. (Little E might be talking by then, too.)

    I hope those ramblings made some sense.

    Go if you want to go. Stay home if you want. It might be fun to have a little family getaway before baby # 2 arrives.


  15. You`ll remember it for him, won`t you? You can take pictures and make a photobook for him. He doesn't have to remember everything – his brain will take in what he needs to enjoy the moment – let's face it, it's a good thing that he doesn't remember every single little thing. You can remember the expression on his face when he sees a lion and you can remember how horrible and cranky he was cause he couldn't go to sleep. Perhaps you can choose a different flight or perhaps you can choose to stay home or you can go and slip him a little Gravol.

    We went on hubby's business trip to San Francisco when my son was just learning to walk. We both didn't sleep very well, hubby was pretty tired for his conference, I had to rush back to the hotel for the kid's naps and I didn't see very much of the city at all. But we did spend a half day and evening with another blogger, our kids played together, he napped even and for that alone, it was worth it.


  16. I think you should go. maybe take a different flight but go…it's an excuse from the routine and you both will enjoy. yes your son wont remember but like others have mentioned you can take pics and when he grows up trust me he will appreciate it. i know when i look at my childhood pics its brings a sense of gratitude even though i dont remember any of it.

    plus the highlighted quote is right. this trip is for you. go enjoy, you deserve it.


  17. I'd say do it. You could have a crap day at home, and without warning. At least on a trip you know what to expect, even though what is expected kind of sucks. 🙂
    You will do things the three of you, before your family expands. And you will treasure that, as you do with anything related to your children. Not to mention that children have this extraordinary capacity to surprise you. So go! You will make family and friends roar with laughter for years, when you tell them how you went to SD with W over night. 🙂


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