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October 16, 2013

Traveling with Dzul

Tom McLaughlin

Our last three-week trip was our first major travel with our two year old son Dzul. I must admit he was good 85% of the time.


Since he was two, we had to pay full fare and he sat between us in his own seat. The cabin attendants would not allow Dzul to sit on my wife’s lap during takeoff and landings. We first had an enormous battle with the seat belts. He wanted no part of them. He squirmed, yelled and quickly learned to unbuckle them. I finally had to lean over and cover the buckle as he made the whole plane know of his displeasure. This went on for about the first five of the 11 flights we took.


The rest of the flights were as they say “uneventful” as he took each in flight magazine and tore it apart. When the drink cart came, he enjoyed a juice but was not enamored by the food. We also allowed him to run up and down the aisle with one of us a few steps behind him. The older passenger nodded knowingly with the “been there, done that” knowledge. They were probably wondering why an old grandfather was running behind Dzul. I have long given up the tinge I felt when being an older, well, much older father. I can’t believe I am 60 years older than my son.


We stayed in nice hotels, usually three or four stars by U.S. standards. I have long given up the dives my wife and I used to stay in when jungle traveling. I don’t want to find a snake in the bathroom or a nasty poisonous bug in my shoe. Dzul would try to make pets out of them.


For some reason, the push button light switches in the Asian hotel rooms are exactly eye level with Dzul. He would run into the room and turn everyone on. Then, go back and turn everyone off. Then turn them all on again. The telephone was great fun. We ended up unplugging it and hiding it on top shelf of the closet.


Then there was the room safe; the ones where you set your own combination. I never knew that when you pressed the buttons a musical note would play. Dzul found that out very quickly. He managed to play what he considered songs on them. Since we couldn’t lift the safe to a higher level, we would place a suit case in front of it.


The swimming pool provided a nice respite after a flight. All of us would change into our suits and head for the cool water. Dzul thinks he can swim. We would hold him under his tummy and let him pretend. We would yell kick! Kick! And move him about the pool. He thought he was actually swimming. Our goal was not to prepare him for water safety (he is way too young for that) but to tire him out. We became more tired than he did moving him from one end to the pool to the other.


After a snooze, ours not his, he ran around the room testing the light switches…again. We went out for dinner. Many of the restaurants did not have high chairs so the wait staff found pillows and stacked them up on a chair where promptly managed to slide off. After a chase, he ended up on Suriani’s lap.


He has a finicky appetite. We could get him to eat the rice and chicken but not much else. We would take the dinner remainders back to the room and feed him more there. Most of it ended up on the floor.


Where he gets his energy is beyond me. He goes from about 7 A.M. until about 8 P.M. without an afternoon nap. Meanwhile I have taken two. He finally just stops and passes out in mid-stride wherever he is. Thankfully, he sleeps straight through the night.


When visiting the sights, we hold his hand and make him walk. He has just become too big to carry everywhere. There are so many different smells, noises, bright colors and constant activity that we don’t have to entertain him. We do have to watch for pitfalls. Most of Indonesia has never heard the phrase “child friendly.” There are deep monsoon drains, cracked sidewalks, roots coming through the walkways, people trying to sell us stuff and other obstacles that we are on high alert most of the time.


We allow him to run down the halls of museums where normally, everything is safe, one of us close behind while the other looks at the exhibits. But, we do manage to see things. The one doing the chasing will ask the other if he/she saw anything interesting.”Yes,” is probably the reply. “Go and look at the Ming piece at exhibit 214.” That person becomes the chaser for awhile.


The tropical beaches are the most fun for the family. I can take him in the water, build sand castles, and search for interesting tropical shells and corals. Suriani and Dzul have deep tans in about 20 minutes, but I have to be slathered in lotion, unfortunately I always miss spots. He finds it most amusing when I forget to cover my big nose and it turns a bright glow after the beach. He thinks it’s hilarious that Daddy has turned red.


God has given me a second chance at fatherhood even after I had a vasectomy and married a barren lady. And I am so grateful to HIM for that.


…Life is good. . . . .


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