Last week, as my children were visiting their father for the first week of their fall vacation, I began to mentally plan our upcoming trip to Berlin. We would be staying with my boyfriend’s sister and staying there for five days. I could already see myself wandering through art museums, drinking large cups of coffee at hipster cafe’s while mocking their super inflated egos and their ironically cool outfits. But slowly that dream began to fade as I realised that my children would be bored out of their minds and make me painfully aware.
I realised that when travelling with hyperactive children all you need to do is go by their beat. Do not expect to wander through museums reading each explanation, instead you will be whizzing through the exhibits as they do when opening Christmas presents. You will not be able to sit in a cafe for more that it take your order to be placed in a cardboard cup, and drink it while you try to understand the subway system, and keeping an eye on your children so they do not grab trash off the streets, follow a pigeon down the tracks, or wader through the maze of people convinced they know the right way. I knew this would be my future. And because I knew how hairy a situation could get, I looked for kid friendly activities.
In addition to the kids we decided to take along our friendly, sometimes too friendly lab/collie with us. And after driving six hours she needed to desperately stretch her legs and smell the news. Lucky for us we wandered over the the Tempelhof, an old airport now converted into a park, with a dog park. Aimy, was overjoyed. So many dogs to greet and not enough attention to greet them all. It was a wonderful beginning for both dog and child. The kids ran around on the old runway pretending to be planes as Aimy joined along.
The next day we decided to go the the Tiergarten, one of Berlin’s zoos, the difference being that dogs were allowed. It was a day long excursion and both dog and child were entertained and exhausted by the end of it. The Tiergarten not only contained an impressive list of animals to observe, but a wonderful cafeteria with play stations and aquariums for the children to have fun at while adults were able to enjoy their meal or in my case, my glorious coffee.
The third day was spent at the nature museum where my two inquisitive explorers ran through the museum looking at dinosaur bones, minerals, preserved creatures, asteroids, and stuffed animals.
The fourth day was another museum, but this time completely geared towards children. The MACHmit! museum is a children’s museum where they are free to explore and understand through play how children develop in the uterus, how childbirth is celebrated in different cultures, and how children of different cultures live. In addition to the interactive exhibitions, there is also a labyrinth, arts and craft stations, role playing areas, and a glorious cafe with nice strong coffee for adults. It was a wonderful experience, and the only way I enjoyed those five days was because I left my self fulfilling expectations back home, and focused my attention solely on the kids.
Even though I was not able to see the other side of Berlin, I was able to experience it through child eyes. I saw their amazement as they rode on the Ubahn, SBahn, and Tram. I enjoyed their delight as they waited for certain funny ads to appear on the subway screens. I watched in awe as my boyfriend taught my 7 year old how to play chess and relished in his determination to figure out the game and try to win over and over again.
I know that someday I will be able to go back to Berlin and enjoy the art it offers, but my children are only this young once, and I have the ability to create wonderful memories for them that will stay and influence who they want to be; so really there is no sacrifice at all.