Before our Hawaii vacation, our only other trip by plane was to Austin in March when Stevie was four months old. The biggest thing we learned then was that the baby was just a small factor in how the trip would go—the primary factor we could control (in theory) was us, the parents. We couldn't control how Stevie behaved—if he was going to cry the whole flight, it was up to him, not us. If we could “behave” as his parents and adults, then the journey would go as well as it could. By “behave,” I mean not be attached to any specific outcome and doing our best to accept and go with whatever presented itself. Traveling with a baby is was full of unknowns, so we just needed to roll with it. I would say this is a recipe for pleasant travel whether or not you have a baby en tow. Most of these realizations came from us not going with the flow on this trip.
Our Hawaii trip was another opportunity to try to stay in the moment and to allow things to be as they were. We invested a great deal more time and money in preparation, and we wanted it to go well. After a little over six months of parenting, we craved a break and some peace and relaxation. So we were definitely attached to this outcome and hoping for the best.
I wish I could report back that I floated through each day fully accepting all that was in each moment. I cannot. However, I can say that my baby taught me valuable lessons about how to be present with others while traveling and in life. The magic of a baby is they haven't yet formed expectations and attachments and judgements. Stevie only knows this moment. And in another moment, he will have forgotten this one.
Probably the biggest blessing of the journey were our flights. As we waited at the Denver airport for the first of six flights, Stevie began our lessons in humanity. My husband held him as I ate lunch, and an older gentlemen struck up conversation with us. He told us about his many grandchildren while Stevie gave him huge, excited smiles. Meanwhile, two small girls came over to say hi to Stevie. This was the first of many connections our baby forged for us that we most likely would have missed out on if it wasn't for him.
The trend continued the next day on our flight from Oakland to Honolulu when Stevie attempted to make friends with everyone around us who was awake. We met a woman from Boston who teaches music at a college there. She smiled at him and clapped her hands and played peekaboo. Stevie was enamored. He also couldn't get enough of the two kids seated behind us. They thought he was pretty great too, calling him cute and exclaiming that he didn't seem to ever blink his eyes.
On our flight from Molokai to Honolulu, he made friends with two locals and two other tourists. We were offered free childcare on our next visit to the island while Stevie worked his magic with his huge toothless smile. Later in the day, on our flight back to Oakland, an older Brazilian couple made friends with Stevie and almost demanded to hold him. He was in heaven being held by complete strangers. He could probably tell they were grandparents—they were traveling to see their grandkids in the Bay area. On the same flight, we met a mom and her four-year-old son who speaks Japanese and Spanish and is now picking up English. Once again, Stevie was delighted.
On our final flight home, we met a couple going to visit family in the Denver area—and of course, Stevie charmed them as well. Across the aisle, a younger guy we hadn't even talked to asked if he could take Stevie's picture because he was so cute.
These are only experiences while we were traveling. They don't include the woman working at a papaya farm on Molokai who snatched Stevie up and took him back to see the workers sorting fruit. Or the countless other people we engaged with because of our sweet baby's smile of genuine interest and joy.
It's been a few months since we took this trip, and since then we have made new connections daily. Stevie continues to smile freely to anyone who will give him a moment and smile in return. Every single day, our baby, now over nine months old, teaches us with these smiles and his goodness. I believe his primary lesson is for us to not hold back our goodness, but instead to share it freely with others without fear of rejection or other harm.
Stevie hasn't learned to be shy or to withhold his sweetness and purity. He hasn't learned to judge others because they are different. To him, the differences are interesting and new. He learns as he meets people of different ages and ethnic backgrounds. He hasn't created a story in his mind about these groups. He can be with each of them and offer his goodness and receive their goodness. And, he reminds us to do the same. To be present with people we meet. To be open to them and to offer our goodness and to receive theirs. To share this one moment with them. To not judge them or to be afraid of them. To know that we are all people, and we were all once sweet, innocent, smiling babies. What more do we need to know? In the ways that matter, we are all the same.