10 tips for childless travelers visiting children (Be afraid. Be very afraid).

Posted on
Jun 16, 2010
Posted in: Advice, Top Ten

I know nothing about children. I’ve made this claim numerous times, but I feel the need to reiterate it, just so we’re clear: if you handed me an eggplant and a baby, I would obviously be able to tell them apart, because I’m not a moron. But if you asked me what to do with the egglplant and the baby, that’s where problems would arise. I would know exactly what to do with the former, and no clue of what to do with the latter (presumably, babies should not be salted to remove bitterness).

While reading through Christine’s tips for traveling to theme parks with children, and Deanna’s advice on how to survive trips with a little one, I realized something: they are effing brilliant. Because they’re so far beyond the “what-the-hell-do-I-do-with-this-baby” that they’re actually able to dispense some seriously helpful advice to those of you who may have little ones.

But I can’t do that. So I’d like to speak to those of you who don’t have children. Those of you who, like me, have no idea what to do with children whatsoever. Who are absolutely mystified by them. This post is for you. Because a few weeks back, we went down to Florida to visit my cousin and his wife, and their three children, and the entire week was a revelation. And I’d like to share some information that will be worthwhile to those of you who are as clueless as I am about kids.

Below are my ten tips for childless couples visiting children. Those of you who are parents, be warned: you will probably quietly shake your head in embarrassment at my ignorance.

  1. Children are scared of stuff.

    Well, duh, right? As a child, I was afraid that there was something living in the toilet, and if I didn’t hop off it immediately after going, it would bite me in the ass. This is not what I would call a “logical fear” (wrote the woman who insists on having at least half a tank of gas in her car at all times in case of a zombie apocalypse. No, I’m not kidding). So I figured my cousin’s kids, who are kind of brilliant, would not be scared of silly fictional stuff. WRONG. We went on a ride at DisneyWorld that included real (but controlled) flames. They freaked. I found this shocking.

    These are the flames which caused the little ones to go apeshit. Fortunately, Rand was there.

    These are the flames which caused the little ones to go apeshit. Fortunately, Rand was there.

  2. They are fickle little bastards.

    One minute, they will have you convinced that if you don’t buy them a double-edged lightsaber, they’ll die. They will absolutely keel over unless we get it now, now, now. So, since you’ve promised them at least one gift, you stop by the Disney gift shop at the end of the day, and find that they have totally lost interest in the toy. This is what children do. Don’t try to be logical or get them to explain their feelings. It will only lead to a headache. Trust me.
  3. You will always come in second.

    You’re awesome, right? Of course you are. You read my blog. Consequently, you assume that kids will pick up on your awesomeness – and most of the time, they will. But be warned: you will always come in second. Even if you are the coolest aunt/godmother on the planet, they will at some point push you away violently and go hug their own mom or dad. Soothe your fragile ego by imagining all the fights they’ll be having in 12 years.

    In all fairness, her parents ARE pretty cool.

    In all fairness, her parents ARE pretty cool.

  4. They have teeny tiny little legs.

    Seriously, it’s a miracle that the human race has been able to progress at all, given that our young make such easy prey for tigers, lions, bears, and hell, even chickens. Children have teeny tiny legs, so they can barely keep up with you (unless you’re tired, at which point they have crazy amounts of energy). They also get tired super quickly, which is no surprise given their tiny legs. And when they get tired, they get cranky. So don’t be surprised if they have a screaming hissy fit that somewhat resembles the demonic possession scene from The Exorcist, and moments later curl up adorably in your arms.

    Yes, yes, all past heinousness will be pardoned.

    Yes, yes, all past heinousness will be pardoned.

    Come to think of it, I do this to my hubby often. Then again, I have short legs.

  5. Sometimes, they suck.

    Holy crap, can children be awful. I suspect most parents don’t realize it, because they’re genetically predisposed not to notice (otherwise, again, the whole human race would be doomed. Children would be abandoned in Wal-Mart on a daily basis). Just be aware of this fact: they can be mean, taunting little jerks. And you can’t retaliate. Because believe me, calling them “little assholes” to their faces does not go over well. Just breathe deeply and make a mental note of embarrassing things they do. These anecdotes will help you mortify them as young adults in the coming years.
  6. You don’t have to listen to them.

    We took my cousin’s kids to see The Princess and the Frog. The kids insisted that they didn’t want to see it, and everyone – except me – ignored them. I frantically looked at their parents, wondering what we’d do – we’d already bought the tickets, and now the kids didn’t want to go to the movie.

    “And you’re listening to them?” their mother asked me, astonished.

    She explained that it would be fine – they’d love the movie. And sure enough, they did. So while ignoring children is apparently a bad thing to do, not doing exactly what they say is totally okay.

    "Look, I understand that you both disagree with Robert McNamara's view that the Domino Theory is what pulled us into Vietnam. I don't care - we're still watching "The Fog of War" tonight."

    "Look, I understand that you both disagree with Robert McNamara's view that the Domino Theory is what pulled us into Vietnam. I don't care - we're still watching "The Fog of War" tonight."

  7. Crying is not the end of the world.

    For some reason (perhaps because I’m from a dramatic, Italian family), crying children have never really panicked me that much. Kids cry. We all cry. Like peeing or road rage, it often happens at least a half-dozen times a day. But a friend of mine (and new mother to twins) told me, as I was holding her crying infant, that she was so relieved I wasn’t freaking out about a few tears. Apparently a few childless friends of hers panicked when the babies started crying.

    I shrugged. My mother’s shed more tears over commercials.
  8. Even the smart ones are morons.

    Kids are kind of stupid. I mean, quite a few of them will shock you with their brilliance, but they’re still kids. Most of them have only been on the planet only a few years. If you asked me the entirety of what I’ve learned in the last few years, the whole of my answer would be “I shouldn’t wear skinny jeans.”

    So don’t be surprised when even smart kids do stupid things – because that’s what kids do. Example: I gave my cousin’s three-year-old some strawberries. Even though she’s a brilliant little girl, she ate the green part. Why? Because she’s a kid, and I handed her a strawberry with the green part still attached (total Dick Move! on my part).

    Hell, I was a smart kid, but I was still a moron. I distinctly remember trying to eat the paper around a Reese’s peanut butter cup at the age of 3, thinking it was dark chocolate (thank you, mom, for helping me).
  9. You are going to get sticky.

    Don’t pack your nice clothes if you are going to visit children. And accept that you will get lots of food and other unidentifiable substances on you. For some of us, this isn’t terribly different than the status quo.

    Source of said stickiness.

    Source of said stickiness.

  10. They will annoy you. Despite this, you will miss them … a little.

    My little godson is a huge pain in the ass. On our last trip to see him and his siblings, he farted, and then blamed me. When I explained that it wasn’t me, he started screaming.”YES IT WAS! YES IT WAS!”

    I love him dearly, but I was nevertheless relieved to get back home. After a few days, something felt not quite right. Rand realized it before I  did …

    “Honey,” he said. “I think … I think I miss the kids.”

    “Me too,” I replied. “It’s totally f*cked up.”


    Damn it.

    Damn it.


I know, I know – parents are going to look through this post and shake their heads quietly at my ignorance. But as I long as I can help just one childless moron out there, then it was all worth it.

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