Tom Fitzsimons: An OE for three
A couple of years ago - barely into our mid-20s - my girlfriend Harriet and I found out that we'd inadvertently created a baby.
Yep, she'd fallen pregnant. I'd knocked her up. A poppy seed turned into a kidney bean, which grew to become an avocado, and then a mighty pumpkin, before emerging in late 2009 as a human baby. (Chart here). We called him Baxter.
(It's possible that one or two of you followed the beginnings of that momentous story on a late Stuff blog called The Lost Boys.)
Because Harriet and I were just babes ourselves - Generation Y brats with big egos and no obligations - the jump into parenthood was like a blow to the solar plexus.
Careers were upended, travel plans indefinitely postponed, cash emptied into a baby-shaped vortex. Out went the parties and the acres of spare time; in came the nappies and the red-eyed lullabies.
Such, as many of you will know, is the stuff of new parenthood. But all that was many moons ago now. And now, together with Harriet, I think I can say we've done it. Raised him. Shepherded him through childhood. Seen him grow into the man he is today.
Baxter's three years old. Three-and-a-quarter, if you ask him. He can count to eleventeen. He can eat pretty much a whole birthday cake on his own. He can take himself to the toilet, even if that sometimes translates to hosing the sand in front of a packed Lyall Bay beach.
In other words, Baxter's ready to see the world. Which is perfect, because before he showed up, Harriet and I had been planning a different type of adventure entirely. We'd saved and saved for, I don't know, at least three months, and we had a wicked trip planned to the UK where we'd get menial jobs and ride the tube.
Now, a few years later, we're reviving the dream - with Baxter in tow. Starting on March 10, we're beginning an odyssey around the globe. A toddlyssey. An OE for three.
There have already been hitches. It turns out you can't get the young worker's visa to Britain if you have a child, so we've had to drop that idea. And it sounds like we've timed our South-East Asian leg to coincide with the madness of the Buddhist New Year and its accompanying giant waterfight, so that will be interesting with a three-year-old.
And we're not sure if the money will last. And we're leaving grandparents and aunties and legions of free babysitters behind. And we've got no idea what Baxter's going to make of the heat, or the strange languages, or the crowds, or the fawning locals. And it's not just him - I'm a bit scared of life in general, let alone travelling to the Chinese hinterland.
Are we insane? That's the question Harriet keeps asking. Maybe. We'll see. If it's anything like I'm expecting, it will be amazing, exhausting and exasperating. It's just the proportions that I'm not sure about.
Baxter's a high-energy, extroverted kid who eats nearly anything and approaches nearly anyone who looks at him. Hopefully he's just going to drink it up.
We're still young and we feel like we've got to take the chance to get away while the boy's still a preschooler, before any other babies show up, and before we find ourselves completely in the groove of middle-class Wellington family life.
On this blog, Harriet and I will share something of what it's like to take a three-year-old on a big worldwide wander. All things going well, the route is going to thread through Asia, Europe and central America over a full year - we'll explain more in a future post. Sometimes we'll take it very slow - other times we'll be quicker.
Do other people do this - take the kids away for some serious travelling while they're still little? How has it gone? Have you got any tips - please?!
Tom Fitzsimons, Harriet Palmer and their toddler Baxter will be sharing their globetrotting adventures with Essential Mums.