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Why would you want to take a baby to England?

This was my mom talking. “Why would you want to take a baby to England? He won’t remember anything!” I had just announced our trip plans and that Sam, seven months old, would be going with us. She may have been hinting that Sam should have stayed with her while Sam’s father and I gallivanted around the British Isles for three weeks. But that wasn’t our plan. Sam was going with us. No other way of doing it. Our trip was not about just having fun as a couple. We’d had plenty of that before Sam came along. This was an inclusive, family experience. He wasn’t just a baby to us, he was us.

In the Royal Botanical Gardens, Edinburgh, Scotland

Sam was a part of everything, from the long flights from Albuquerque to Newark to Heathrow and then visiting sites throughout England and Scotland. He was at every English breakfast table, at Edinburgh Castle, various botanical gardens, the Tower of London, the Lake District where we fed ducks, geese, and swans, and watching some Highland Games in Scotland.

The easiest baby-travel style was doing outdoor things. Museums, historic homes, and castle tours could be complicated with Sam’s discomforts, finding places to nurse, and difficulties with his stroller. What worked best were the gardens, parks, and open-air historic sites like Hadrian’s Wall. His father and I also traded off personal trips. When Tom took a day to hike up Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain, I took care of Sam in the small inn as various travelers talked with me and admired our baby. My personal time in bookstores and tea shops was during Sam’s naps, which often seemed few and far between.

At Caernarfon Castle, Gwynned, Wales

Days with baby Sam started early, the nights started early, my meals were always taken with an active baby in my lap, and sometimes Sam was ready to stop the car way before we were. I also remember walking with a miserable baby through some neighborhoods in York when his first tooth was coming in. But all this wasn’t unique to this trip. As all new parents realize, this had become our life. I was nursing him, so food was not that much of an issue, though he did taste his first peach and his first ice cream on that trip.

Sam in our rental car

The astounding advantage to traveling with a baby was how Sam was an icebreaker with locals and other tourists. We became incredibly approachable. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to meet the little American baby, including other parents with young children and grandparents on holiday. A waitress at a Scottish restaurant exclaimed, “What a bonny bairn!” and delightedly carried Sam off to meet the kitchen staff. Tom was thrilled that young women were enthusiastically coming up to him since he had a baby in his arms.

At a Highland Games in Scotland, wearing his father’s new tweed hat

And, yes, Sam doesn’t remember anything about that trip, but he’s heard lots of stories, seen photos, and watched the VHS slide show I put together afterwards. And I hope that our pride from that trip stays with him for the rest of his life.

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