Family Vacation: Lessons from a PDX Momma

The TV show Portlandia has been a blessing and a curse for Portlanders; especially for those of us who like to take family vacations and escape the Portland bubble once in a while. Our city is weird, that we know (and love), and by default we tend to be a little eccentric too. My boys grew up wearing amber necklaces, and yes I’ve taught them to have a religious-level zeal for everything to do with dogs, music festivals, and local farmer’s markets.

One of the special joys of being a Portland parent is that I’ve developed a certain brand of sensitivity that, sadly, just doesn’t seem to fly outside of the Pacific Northwest. So here are some things for us to prepare for as we head out into the big world for family spring break this year.

Not Everywhere is Stroller Friendly

If you’ve gotten used to pushing your double-wide down the luxuriously smooth and courteously-traveled P-town sidewalks, be prepared for the eventuality that when you go on vacation, people will not abide by the same sidewalk courtesies.

Instead of seeing your stroller as, you know, a baby on wheels, non-Portlanders might just see it as an obstacle. They’ll see you coming, and they will not move out of your way.

As the larger vehicle, the responsibility falls on you to yield to everyone else on the sidewalk, but we rarely have to yield when the walkers at home are just so accommodating. And if you fall more into the babywearing camp (high-five!) and your stroller managing skills are as flimsy as mine, the art of stroller steering will take some practice.

If you see moms with strollers doing obstacle races in the park, don’t judge; they’re just prepping for vacation.

Parents of Picky Eaters Will Need to be Well-Armed

We’re spoiled when it comes to food. There’s no question. Portland boasts some of the best farm to table dining as well as delicious cuisines from around the world. The food here is so diverse, even picky eaters have options. One of our cave-ins for our picky son is indulging in Voodoo doughnuts every Sunday. It’s amazing how adventurous a picky eater will get when the new food is slapped on top of a doughnut.

Needless to say, traveling with picky eaters can be a challenge. You never quite know what food you might be able to get at any given time, and you certainly can’t rely on a place to have the variety of options we have at home. If you find yourself in the position of facing down a hungry, near-tantrum-level kid, know that, in travel at least, the glories of technology will come to your rescue. I regularly find myself turning to my smartphone to help overcome my picky-eater-travel-woes.

I’m most proud of the epic Bomboloni win of ‘aught six — a quick search helped me convince my son that the tasty Italian pastry was basically just a Voodoo doughnut in disguise. It wasn’t much of a stretch, but I took the win nonetheless.

Before you venture out for the day, scout out a handful of restaurants that you’d like to visit that have kid-friendly menus. Oh yeah there’s an app, or 10, that will help with that.

People May Not Get Your Sleeve

Body art is such a normal part of Portland life that it can be shocking the first time you find yourself walking down the street in a small town and you catch an old woman glaring at you because of your tattoos. Add motherhood to that equation and the whole thing just triggers people’s emotions. It’s wild. One study found that people with tattoos are instantly assumed to be more thrill seeking, promiscuous, and have fewer inhibitions than people without tattoos. This may or may not be true for any given individual, but in Portland we’ve collectively arrived at a place where we just don’t make those judgments.

The rest of the country doesn’t necessarily feel that way though. Many people still see tattoos as dangerous and dirty. It’s not your job, dear Portlander, to make them understand. Don’t take their judgement personally. Just keep doing you.

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Portlandia has given people around the country a hilarious glimpse into some of the quirkier aspects of life as a Portland parent. But we know we are more than the caricature. One of the best parts about taking the whole family out of town for that marvelous spring break week is that our kids are given the opportunity to see themselves as weird, as “other.” They’re the outsiders. In that way, travel is one of the best gifts we can give to our kids. Because it teaches them one of the most important Portland qualities: the value of being weird.

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Brooke Faulkner

Brooke Faulkner, a proud mom of two, is a writer and travel lover. When she's not writing or running the kids, she can usually be found hunkered over a map dreaming up the next big adventure.
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