If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you know that Ben and I headed across the pond for this year’s summer vacation. What possessed me to take a ten-year-old boy to Europe for two weeks by myself? Well, as with everything in my life, there’s a story that goes with it…
When Ben was born, he was a big baby. Like over 10 pounds big. Like after the nurse called out his weight, my doctor looked over the curtain protecting me from seeing my innards and said “WHAT DID YOU EAT?!”. Like the pediatrician said “Congrats – you had a three month old!” after she examined him for the first time. Like they put him on a scale next to a set of twins and he weighed the same as both of those babies COMBINED. Like, the newborn outfit that I brought to the hospital to take him home in was bursting at the snaps. My Incredible Hulk baby.
To me, he was just my tiny little perfect baby. To everyone else, he was “Big Ben”, nicknamed so by the nurses in the hospital. It’s a nickname that has stuck, used by coaches, friends, and family, even though he isn’t quite the chunk-a-munk now. Over the last ten years, London and in particular the landmark Big Ben, has held a special place in our house. So when it came time to plan this summer’s vacation, one that would coincide with Ben’s tenth birthday, I decided ten years old was a good age to introduce him to Europe. Plus #BigBenTurns10 had a nice ring to it.
(To be fair, he had been to Europe once before. We had spent a week in the English countryside when Ben was about nine months old but that doesn’t really count. Though I will say, a jet-lagged baby is NO JOKE.)
Once it was decided that we would be heading to London, the fun really began. For me, half the fun of going somewhere new is the planning. I love doing all the research, pinning ideas and packing lists, plotting out what to see and where to go and what to eat. You gotta have a list of must-have food items! Luckily, Ben and I are similar in that sense and we started having planning meetings in the beginning of the year.
The original plan was to spend five days in London. That’s it. But one night, Ben turned to me and said “I want to see the Eiffel Tower. Is that in London?”
No, it’s in Paris.
“Is that far?”
Well..no. It’s about a two-hour train ride.
“Can we go see it?!”
I gave it about a half-second’s thought before saying “Of course!” I figured we would add on an overnight (or 2) in Paris before heading home. So we add Paris to our planning sessions and one day Ben says “Paris is in France, right? So is Normandy. Can we go see the D-Day beaches?”
Turns out his class had been learning about the Normandy invasion and he wanted to see the actual beaches the soldiers fought on. So am I going to be the asshole parent who says “No, we are not going to visit the D-Day beaches and pay our respects?” No, I’m not. So I said “Absolutely!” and added “find day tour to Normandy” to my Summer Vacation To Do List.
With a few more days in France added to our itinerary, I reached out to a good friend who lives in the south of France to see if she and her kids wanted to join us in Paris for a couple of days. Because my friends are awesome, she suggested we come to the south of France to stay with her and spend the last days of our vacation relaxing by the beach.
Uh, yeah. I guess so. I mean..if we HAVE to.
So we added on a few more days and before we knew it, we were looking at a full two weeks in Europe – just the two of us!
Cue the anxiety sweats.