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2 Kids, 1 Parent and the Rigors of Family Travel

Matt Villano

“Are you sure you can manage the two of them by yourself?”

This was the question my mother asked me recently, upon learning of my plan to take our two girls (ages 3.5 and 1.5) from our home in the country to a museum in the big city—without my wife.

Mom meant well, of course; at the same time she was expressing concern about her only child (me) and her only grandchildren (L and R).

Still, her skepticism taunted me. I had to manage the trip alone. Just to prove I could.

The day started smoothly. L fell asleep about 30 minutes into the drive and R passed out about 20 minutes later; both the girls were snoozing when I pulled into the parking garage around 11 a.m.

I woke them and allowed them to come to, and we headed inside and sauntered around some exhibits. Save for R’s peculiar and unprecedented preferences for electrical panel covers, this portion of the afternoon also proceeded without incident. (Just don’t tell staffers I let the girls eat snacks in food-free sections of the museum.)

Finally, it was time for lunch.

On our way to the on-site café. I politely-but-strongly requested that L use the head. She refused, insisting she did not have to go. The “conversation” escalated to the precipice of meltdown. In the interest of maintaining general sanity, I relented.

Naturally, then, five minutes later, when the Villanos (including R, strapped into her high chair) were sitting at a table eating lunch, L suddenly really, really, REALLY had to go.

After (silently) spewing a string of expletives in my head, I flagged down a busboy, explained the situation and gave him $10 bucks to make sure nobody touched our food or stuff. No more than 90 seconds later, the girls and I made it to the potty. Just in time.

(ICYW, I had to take off my t-shirt to cover the magic eye. We’re still grappling with that one.)

We got back to the table and the wonderfully honest busboy was still there, minding our stash like a Buckingham Palace guard. In every way, all major crises (wet pants, theft, etc.) were averted. But at the risk of committing the sin of TMI, I’ll admit: The episode left me quite literally dripping with sweat.

No, I won’t say Mom was right to doubt my abilities (sorry, Ma). But I will say this: Even when it’s relatively “uneventful,” family travel with multiple children and one parent can be tough.

My experiences on that fateful day left me with newfound respect for single parents who hit the road. This epiphany led to another valuable lesson, as well: A little patience goes a long way, regardless of whether you’re the solo parent, a random worker or a passerby.