My family and I have just returned from six incredible months in Mexico. Our kids are five and just three. Here is a run down of my ten best moments:
1. Seeing my kids get excited about ancient ruins. Our four year old son loves nothing more than a visit to an archaeological site. Monumental staircase? He'll zoom up faster than a mountain goat. Random pile of rocks? He'll be up it. Ancient pelota court? He'll inform you what happened there.
Hopefully we've instilled a love of exploration in the kids by visiting so many archaeological sites. We deliberately chose not to overburden them with too many facts because they're so small. We just let them revel in running around such interesting places....and snacks at the top of old monuments never went amiss either.
2. Cenotes: a geographical wonder of the Yucatan Peninsula. They are basically huge, natural, pools of water. Some are open and some are entirely underground. We visited a number of these across the peninsula. The cenote highlight has to be when the kids both jumped from a two metre platform into the 90m deep cenote (in life jackets, obviously) as a group of locals watched in surprise and awe. They got a huge round of applause and after, this group of local men came up to ask us about our kids and tell us how incredible it was that they'd been able to do that.
3. The local zoo in Merida (where we were based for most of our trip) makes for an interesting visit. It has a playground, funfair rides and a teeny tiny train for kids to ride on. It also has a large collection of fairly miserable animals kept in pretty dire cages. On our first visit I'd asked the four year old to consider what he was seeing and try to compare it to London Zoo. He did and very quickly realised that this local zoo really wasn't a good environment for the animals due to the lack of space or facilities for them. I was really proud he could see the difference as he isn't always the most empathetic little chap!
4. We spent a month in Tulum studying Spanish and hanging out on the beach. There is nothing more delicious in life than seeing your little ones romp around a beautiful beach as if they have been there all their lives. They got so tanned, their hair went blond and unkempt and I just loved seeing them outside playing all day.
5. Spanish. Of course, living in Mexico we had to be willing to learn to speak the language. The kids now speak Spanish well enough to cope at school, to play, to understand tv and film and to correct my Spanish! The big one would often try out his new found ability in slightly strange places and we'd suddenly find him instructing cab drivers to go faster or informing waiters that he needed something. Even the little one could be sent off to get the bill in a restaurant or to order herself another drink.
6. Trying new foods: from the BBQ market in downtown Oaxaca and the roast goat we conned them in to trying to the refried beans and the ceviche, the kids are a little (just a little) more adventurous when it comes to food than they were.
7. Celebrating Day of the Dead in Oaxaca. Day of the Dead is really important in Oaxaca and, by chance, we were there and the kids were in school. What an honour it was to be a part of a school procession rather than just watch from the sidelines with the tourists. The kids got dressed up and, as instructed, we bought lots of sweets for them to throw to the crowds as we walked along the roads behind our marching band.
8. We saw so many amazing animals in the wild. We were lucky enough to have dolphins swim alongside our boat when we were on a day trip from the island of Holbox. Our small girl was captivated and still talks about this. We saw crocodiles, flamingos and pelicans and the kids touched a puffer fish .
9. We also went swimming with turtles off the coast of Akumal. While the experience itself was truly phenomenal, what stood out for me was how our two year old behaved. She put on the snorkel and mask and accepted swimming out to sea in a life vest and happily put her head under the water to watch the turtles swimming below her.
10. Living in a foreign country and helping our kids to see that there's so much more to the world than just their home city. The planet is so big and cultures are so diverse. We had a great time talking to our children about different countries and cultures and seeing them drink it all in. One of the reasons we took this trip was to try and instil an interest, tolerance and understanding of different cultures in the kids. I think we succeeded.
It was incredibly hard to choose ten moments to share. We had such an incredible experience and are stronger for it, both as individuals and as a family unit. I hope one day my kids will realise how lucky they are to have had this opportunity. If you'd like to know more, do check out my blog: yacasillegamosblog.wordpress.com and feel free to drop me a line through the blog if you have any questions. A longer version of the article was previously published on blog.kidbo.co