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On Children, Travel, and Inclusion

In our North American society, children are often considered to be annoyances in air travel, restaurants, grocery stores, and even when they are quietly feeding. I think that as a parent, now used to life with young children, I have far more tolerance than I might have had when I was child-less. In fact, it barely even registers with me that a child is making loud crying noises unless it is the specific crying that I recognize as one of my children. But even still, I freely admit that I can empathize with some of the sentiment behind these movements.

So a piece in Saturday’s Globe & Mail by Bruce Kirby caught my attention. Kirby’s writing is almost poetic, and describes why traveling with young children is a rewarding experience. It was this one section that really struck me:

Take an infant to Buenos Aires, or Kathmandu, or Siem Reap, or any foreign land where children are woven through the strands of daily life. Here strangers will ceaselessly approach — poking, tickling and whispering to the baby — without so much as a sideways glance at you. […] Within days, the infant has learned to seek the attention of strangers, basking in their affection.

To watch the process in reverse is heartbreaking. Board a plane bound for Canada with an infant, and the collective aversion of eyes is obvious. Ditto for walking into a restaurant once home. The child, of course, will continue to wave and coo at strangers in cafes and supermarkets, although far fewer will return the attention. Eventually, the baby gives up.

Isn’t this perspective, from the point of view of the infant, interesting?

Even though most of us will never be — or even aspire to be — the intrepid travellers that the Kirby family is, the article is definitely worth a read. You can access it in full here.

Max and I taking a feeding break during travels in January 2009.


  1. We visited Switzerland (where I grew up) when M was 11 months old – no one helped us get in the trams with the stroller, they looked at us as if we were crazy walking around town with a kid and when we took her to restaurants they whispered and were happy that we were sat at tables way off from them. I find the Germanic Europe to be very unfriendly towards kids in general and find Canada a lot more welcoming.

  2. We have travelled a LOT with our children, since they were born.  We have always felt our fellow travellers to be friendly at all destinations (including home) and to be welcoming.  I should point out that we do have high expectations of behaviour from our boys and they are very polite and respectful.  however, when as a baby, my son once cried an entire night during an overseas flight, people were still very kind to us.

    Travelling with our children is our most favorite thing  to do and we do spend a lot of our income on this.  I once asked my seven year old if he thought that was crazy…. spending so much money on trips and he said “But, Mom, our memories will never go out of style”.  that was all i needed to know we were making the right choices for our family.

    whether it’s  a short camping trip or a trip to Europe, travelling introduces children to so many new experiences and provides the family with real, quality time together.   As you can tell, I really can’t say enough about it!

    • I couldn’t agree more! We spend every penny of our disposible income on airfare it seems! And it’s been worth every penny. :) Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

  3. Shannon8foot6 says:

    Thanks for sharing this!
    I will click through to read the article and pass it along to my husband

    We are planning three trips with baby and toddler this year: Florida, NYC and Copenhagen!

    • coffee with Julie says:

      Thanks for stopping in Shannon! I’ve read Kirby’s writing before and the things that his family has pulled off are, well, pretty jaw-dropping! We really love to travel with our children. We have never been to Florida or Copenhagen, but the size of NYC hotels suits the size of your children! 😉 Just teasing … we brought our daughter to NYC and she had a blast! She was most fascinated by all the fire exit ladders and how the city looked just like “Curious George” books!

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