This week, my fellow blogger, the lovely Josie at Sleep is for the Weak asked in her writing workshop “You’re packing your bags and going off on an adventure with your children. Where are you going? How are you getting there? What would you pack, but more importantly, what would your children pack?” Now I’ve pretty much covered the first three questions in my Gear, and Our Route pages above, so today I’ll tell you what I think our children would pack, given half a chance.
Packing is a subject which consumes many of my waking hours and a more than a few of my sleeping ones. Carrying everything we will need as a family for nine months in two large backpacks and three small ones will be a challenge, to say the least. I go over and over the endless permutations, ensuring that everything we choose has at least two uses or is something we absolutely can’t do without. A year before we depart, I already have a favourite brand of sock (Smartwool if you’re interested, you can wear them for days without smelling) and as a lover of most things gadgety, my head is home to a rotating tag cloud of electronic items which circle as I try to decide which we really need, and which would merely be quite useful.
The children will be carrying small packs, appropriate for their strength and size, into which I should be able to fit most of their clothes. I know that my biggest packing problem will be preventing them from bringing sackfuls of their precious belongings. The children’s packing list starts off easily, as we will most definitely be carrying a selection of ‘blankies’ that are essential for their going to sleep at night and therefore for my peace of mind.
In age order we have Eve’s blankie, a stinky grey rag which started its life seven years ago as a new white muslin and is now, much sucking and sniffing later, half its original size, frayed around the edges and NEVER to be washed. If, in a flurry of tidying up, it mistakenly gets put in the machine, expect tears and recriminations for at least two weeks.
Edward must have two things. The first is a grubby pram blanket with a silky edge, which gets tucked under his body when he sleeps. The second, his beloved white and pale blue Miffy, which Eve chose for his first Christmas. She is about 20cm high and he likes to suck her ears. I once made the horrendous mistake of allowing Dickon to take Miffy to nursery (I know, I know, I was busy trying to get them all shod and not paying attention) on the Friday before the start of half term. When I broke it to Edward that Miffy was sitting in a suitcase in the home corner and we wouldn’t be seeing her for a week, big, fat, sad tears rolled down his cheeks and he sobbed “I love her Mummy, I love her as much as I love you”. We shan’t be leaving Miffy behind.
Dickon has those rabbits that are specially designed for small children to love, with their soft heads and limbs knotted in the corners of the handkerchief body. We’ve probably got through about a dozen of these creatures, as he used to take them everywhere, and are now down to four, who mostly live in his bed. He shows them affection by biting their heads.
Now we’re moving into the trickier area of toys they want to bring, but don’t absolutely need, and I don’t mean the ones which will keep them usefully entertained on long journeys. Eve is a soft toy type of girl whose bed is home to an ever growing menagerie of furry animals, all of whom are interrelated. So if we take Birthday Bear, we have to have Valentino as well, because they’re cousins, and Mummy Penguin and Baby Penguin obviously can’t be separated. Then there are two Otters, Big Bear, Gabriella, Teddy, Deer, Lucy and Angel, all can’t-live-without toys, which she is going to have to live without otherwise we’ll need a separate seat on the plane.
Edward is turning into a caricature of a testosterone-driven boy, with Power Rangers, Ben 10, swords and guns as his play things of choice. There is no way I’m carting his precious red-Power-Ranger-on-a-motorbike all the way around the world and I’m very glad his only guns are those he’s made himself from milk cartons and kitchen roll tubes. I don’t fancy our chances at getting even a not very realistic looking toy gun through security.
Dickon is still in the intractable toddler phase, with no concept of luggage weight or compromise. When asked what he’d like to pack he announced firmly “my rabbits, all my dinosaurs, an umbrella in case it rains and a baby elephant”. I think he meant a toy baby elephant, but I can’t be sure. Given half a chance, they’d probably also bring their Looping Louie board game with it’s aeroplane flying on a rotating arm, a singing dog hand puppet, a giant bucket of Duplo for tower building, a roaring dinosaur torch and their bikes. Aside from the absolute impossibility of squeezing all of this into anything smaller than a steamer trunk, I think it would be a good idea to leave some space in our backpacks for the souvenirs we pick up along the way. Did I tell you we are planning to visit the Hello Kitty theme park in Tokyo…?