Monday, September 12, 2011

Making the most of it with kids

When my inlaws returned home after visiting us this summer, they left behind their Lonely Planet Russia guide.  A few weeks ago, before bed, I began flipping through it.  Man, was that depressing.

We have seen nothing of this enormous, diverse country.  I mean nothing.  We've tried to explore parts of the city every weekend, but after a solid start, band practice and softball games and illnesses began to interfere.  The weather is rapidly getting colder and there is still so much to see!  We did make it up to St. Petersburg over Memorial Day weekend.  I'm glad we did it, but it was hard.  And we were utterly exhausted by the end of it.

There are a number of towns within a three-hour radius of Moscow - the so-called Golden Ring cities.  Had Jeremy and I come here without children, I think we would have seen most of those places by now.  For sure, we would have done the Trans-Siberian Railroad.  I've always wanted to go to Vladivostok (a mere 4,000 miles and eight hours by plane from Moscow).  We would have seen Lake Baikal and perhaps taken a winter vacation to Murmansk, which retains the distinction of being the largest city north of the Arctic Circle.

But with a not-quite-1-year-old and a not-quite-2-year-old, I think the most we can hope for right now is a day trip or two to the Golden Ring.  Our kids are still both in diapers.  Z hates riding in the car and screams and complains for most of the short drives we take now.  Moscow traffic is notoriously awful: What should be a three-hour journey routinely takes five - and those extra two hours are usually spent crawling at snail's pace to the city limits.  Also, it will soon be quite cold, meaning outdoor sightseeing will have to be limited to an hour or so at a time (again, for the sake of the kids).  And while we could try the Trans-Siberian railroad, let's be honest with ourselves about how much fun it would really be, to be trapped inside a metal closet for an entire week with two stir-crazy babies.

The expat life is definitely different with little ones.  I've talked to my mom friends here and they're in the same boat.  Some have traveled more than others, but for the most part we're all city-bound.  Nevertheless, I feel like a wimp.  Like diapers and nap times have killed my motivation to explore and experience.  What happened to the girl who got detained for snapping an illicit photograph of the Tashkent subway (pre-blog)?  Who boarded a sputtering motorboat captained by a monk to visit a remote island in Alaska?

Where is that girl?

So, for those of you more seasoned in the parenting department, please share your experiences.  Inspire me with tales of exotic travels aided by strollers and diaper bags.  Or tell me I'm doing great and gently explain the limitations of family exploration.  Either way, I want to hear from you.


  1. I think the best response from me would be to link to my own post on the subject: and to say it IS hard, you are not imagining things, and if anyone starts telling you about the wonderful trips they took with their babies, well they clearly had different babies! Best strategy at this point is probably to either rely on relatives or hire good help. Hang in there.

  2. Masha, I rarely take the time to visit your blog, but am so happy that I did today. I have no doubt that your parenting skills are right where they should be, and I give you many gold stars for undertaking the task of raising children on foreign soil. Nothing I experienced could even touch what your lives bring you. With a daughter (Macrina) living in Greece and raising children, she, too, has blossomed into an excellent mother who is challenged by a life totally unlike mine. God knows what you bring to the life of your children, and how can He be wrong? Congratulations, young mother, on a life well-lived, well-loved, and well-done!
    Matushka Anna Andrew
    P.S. We miss you in Alaska!

  3. I'd say: enjoy what you're doing and know that just living in another culture is giving you and the girls such an incredible experience. I'd say you *are* doing it!

    I love reading of your travels, however limited you may think they are. Enjoy every day!!

  4. You are doing great! Your children have experienced so much more than mine, and we travel all the time. Just being over seas with them is great and heroic! Keep up the good work!

  5. I've had all those same thoughts at different times in my life. I was thinking about this yesterday; how in other places I've lived overseas some of what matters most to me now is not the big excursions we did as much as getting to know my neighborhood well. Knowing the street and the way it turns, getting to know some of the local vendors, that kind of thing. So even in the little things we do with our kids the impressions they get can be big. It's ok to just enjoy the little things, and the people while they're little!


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