Notice the logo used for this blog and our website, sleeps5.com. The image is of a family of ducks on their way.
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Even before Holly and I constructed our website we consistently utilized a duckling analogy to describe the image of traversing busy sidewalks in big cities with 3 children. You know – the mama duck waddles along leading the way and the youngsters waddle after her, all in a row. In a bustling city, there simply isn’t room on pathways full of people, some tourists, some natives, some hurrying, some lollying, to walk 2 or 3 abreast, let alone all 5 of us grouped together.
I must confess though, that with our family travels, it is rarely me, mama duck, leading the way. I am not the map reader with the God-given talent of spatiality and genetic instincts telling me which direction to head to get back to our hotel. Yes, I could figure out the layout of the London tube system or the Berlin U-Bahn, but yes, it would take me all day. Thankfully, my DH complements my shortcomings and I rely on him to figure out routes and transportation systems. Heck, my kids now do a better job at that than I could.
But, we still walk in duckling formation. DH leads the way, and I bring up the rear, spending my time urging the 3 kids to “keep going”, “follow Dad”, “single file”, “watch out”. I like to keep track of the kids at every moment. I feel safe having one adult out front, and the kids sandwiched between us. My skill is tracking the 3 juveniles in my charge at all times, counting 1-2-3, 1-2-3, making sure everyone is present and safe.
Our ticket method: Using the duck-family system in London, each person had a ticket and needed to insert it into the reader, walk through the turnstile, then retrieve the ticket as it zipped out of the machine. So at every entrance, DH distributed the tickets, went through himself, waited while the kids went through, then I went through as DH collected the tickets from each of us for safe-keeping. Thankfully, we traveled after the morning workday rush, so hopefully we annoyed as few people as possible with our pauses, consultations, and reconsiderations.
Safety tip: Board the train, or Tube, or Subway, or U-Bahn in the same duckling fashion. Have an adult board first, then the kids, then the second adult. Hold as many hands as you can as you enter in bulk. I held hands and elbows and shoulders, trying to keep the kids as close as possible while simultaneously ushering them ahead of me, feeling a sense of urgency to cross the threshold without any separation in my kin group of 5. My fears escalated if there were traveling masses of strangers pressing in with their own efforts to board on time. I could foresee what would happen if I didn’t take these measures: the doors would shut unexpectedly and irreversably, and one of my children would be isolated unaccompanied on a mode of transportation, or on the platform.
I always breathed a sigh of relief when we were all together on the moving subway, or all together climbing up the staircase leading outdoors towards our next siteseeing agenda item. And I kept counting, 1-2-3, 1-2-3.