Picture this, you’re a 9-year-old kid and you need to go to the bathroom. The problem is you don’t speak the language. Mom and dad are busy with the other kids. Actually, mom and dad are plain tired and too exhausted to help you. The whole place is foreign to you. Probably because you are in a foreign country. Because of fear or pain, you somehow manage to get the point across to an employee or another bystander and they help you find the bathroom. Upon exiting the bathroom, you are not only relieved you could empty your system, but proud that you found a way to do it on your own.
That was our kid. We were those parents.
It sounds like a mean thing to do to your kids, I know. But we believe that kids need to do things on their own. It provides them with independence and confidence. Our kids order their own food in restaurants and interact with employees wherever we are staying. They are encouraged to talk to strangers they meet during our journeys. Our traveling discussions, as we try to figure out the best way to get from Point A to Point Z (we stop a lot), include them.
Special memories have come out of encouraging our children’s independence. My son, who was seated with his sister alone in the back of the bus in Barcelona, gave up his seat to an elderly woman. His generosity brought a smile to her face, and the three of them engaged in conversation until we reached our stop. I stood in the middle of the bus and smiled as I watched and listened to the conversation. It didn’t matter that my children knew only a dozen Spanish words and the woman knew about as much English, they found a way to communicate. That moment was a highlight of a trip filled with amazing sites and priceless works of art.
The independence and confidence my children have learned from traveling carry over to life back home. They realize they can get their point across regardless of where they are or with whom they are speaking. Shortly after returning home from our first major European trip, our kids were willing to go to the store on their own and were more comfortable with making public decisions. The tools needed to be more assertive here were picked up while traveling abroad. Now I look forward to seeing those tools sharpened.
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