I’m not going to lie – convincing myself to travel with my five-year-old was a hard sell.
To be fair, my apprehension wasn’t totally about my son. Oliver is a sweet, kind boy who lives for new experiences. He’s considerate of others and though he’s known to interrupt, um, constantly, his manners are generally top notch. I was the problem. Up until last summer I only travelled solo or with my husband, I made a habit of indulging every selfish whim when I did, and, quite simply, when it comes to kids and travel, I’d seen too much. In airports, on planes and in resorts.
So imagine my mixed emotions when I was offered a chance to visit the Marriott Aruba Resort – with child in tow. Once I managed to quash the mental images of airport freakouts and tantrums on the beach, I was able to see the opportunity for what it could be: a chance to: a) expose my child to an unknown and beautiful part of the world, b) have fun, out-of-the-box experiences, and c) quiet my inner chicken and travel with my child. (Clearly I booked the flight before I could change my mind.)
Leading up to departure day, I lamented my choice more than once. I may have even used the trip as a bargaining chip in order to ensure obedience now and again. But when I found him in his room a few days before we were scheduled to leave, packing his Spider-Man costume, PJs, a handful of toys and his favourite books, humming as he arranged each item carefully, I changed my tune. With a smile that melted my Grinch heart, he looked up and said, “I’m so excited to go to Aruba, Momma. We’re going to have a great adventure!”
And we did. From the sheer delight in his eyes on the shuttle bus to the airport (yes, really) to the full-out awe at securing the window seat – and later, touring the cockpit with the pilot – the boy was amazing. (Just ask the flight attendant if you can sneak a peak at the end of the flight.) Once we arrived at the hotel, things only got better as he took his first dunk in the ocean, collected shells by the dozens, and got his first taste of Caribbean life.
The next few days were filled with so many firsts: buffet breakfasts he still raves about, an unforgettable day at an oversized water park, a snorkelling tour with hoards of “real, live” fish, on-site pizza-making lessons, a visit to a nearby butterfly farm and learning how to play beach tennis. It occurred me that I’d never seen him smile so much.
With all this awesomeness, it might be hard to believe that my favourite part of our trip was the voyage home. After hustling through the airport to make our flight, getting settled on the plane and buckling his teddies into the empty seat beside him, my boy grabbed my hand and smiled his million dollar smile.
“Mom, know what my favourite part of Aruba was? Spending time with you.” And my grinchy heart grew two sizes that day.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, November 2013.