So I am traveling, once again, for work. But this time I took my 4-year-old daughter.
Taking your kid on work travel is something that Matt has made a virtue of in the past, and since I am ostensibly on an environmental story, I thought I’d be Erin Brockovich for the first time and have a kid on my hip while I work. It also helps that I’m reporting from the Keys, where I grew up and where my mother still lives. So I took Dalia, left the 2-year-old at home (I may be dumb, but I’m not crazy).
The pictures I’ve been posting on Facebook so far offer, as usual, the happy fiction that everything is superawesome and that Dalia is constantly happy and/or thoughtful.
The actual results have been a little bit more mixed. I had some guilt issues about taking her away from her brother and from the last three days of preschool with her friends. And she did start to cry a little bit when her mom dropped us off at Newark for an early flight. She pepped up for the flight, but has made it clear to me over the last few days that when I talk on the phone and she wants to talk to me, that makes her angry. She might as well have sung Cat in the Cradle to me, it stung that much. And lastly, when we finally did get out to the Dry Tortugas, she did a fair bit of harrumphing during the very short (15-minute) walkaround and chat with the National Park Service folks. She insisted that I carry her, which I gotta say, makes taking notes much more difficult.
Note: I would not have taken her here if there were actually oil on the ground (there isn’t). Nor would I take her on my usual stories, which often involve reporting on murders or repressive world leaders.
But for this story, I have been wildly happy to have her here. Traveling alone is always an invitation to strange thoughts and mental discord. You’re working, ostensibly, for your family, but you’ve left them behind. Talking on the phone with kids this young usually just upsets them more. When my job calls for carousing with sources or other journalists (and I swear it’s sometimes quite necessary), then I wake up hungover in some strange country sometimes wondering what the hell I am doing with my life.
So having her here grounds me in a big way. Thanks to the good, environmentally-minded people at Key West Seaplane Charters, Dalia (and I) got to take part a pretty singular experience–a seaplane flight at just 500 feet, over 70 nautical miles of sea turtles and mangrove islands into the Dry Tortugas National Park. As usual, she was her own person. Being on a plane that landed in the sea seemed to her to be about as exciting as being in a car that parks in a garage. But the waves off of North Beach and the coolness of the water (the ocean closer to Key West is very warm just now) enthralled her. And though a lot of parents have misgivings about just how much of all these adventures our little ones will remember, I continue to be an optimist. Somewhere she will be imprinted by all this, and she’ll be incrementally more comfortable with the life I led growing up–water, fishing, sun, lechón.
That’s important to me, and I’m starting to think, regardless what happens with the article I’m writing–a piece I’m actually going to lose money on, even if it gets published–that this was a successful assignment.