"They are going to thank you so much" is another often-heard reaction. My usual response is "they may be 40 before they do, and at that point they may be thanking my gravestone". But that's OK. I'm not expecting them to be grateful, I'm not even expecting them to be happy about the trip. Not at first. I know for a fact that one of my girls will miss her friends very much, and moreover does not trust her parents to further her education sufficiently while we're away. She'd just as happily stay at home, thanks very much.
So what can you do? Well, my wife and I have been so busy planning this trip (and things have been getting pretty intensive of late) that we've forgotten that there are four travellers here - not just two. We've taken the kids as a major consideration with regards to destinations and activities, but we haven't really taken their personally offered opinions into account. A 6- and 8-year-old typically don't have very strong opinions on what they want to see and do, but a recent conversation with my eldest went like this:
Me: "What is it that you'd like to see in Beijing?"
Nina: "Well, you know the way that in Paris you see the Eiffel Tower? I'd like to see Beijing's Eiffel Tower".
Me: "OK - so in Beijing, that means going to see the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and of course...you know what?"
Me: "The Great Wall. You've heard of that, right? You need to do some research about what other things you'd like to see".
Nina: "Yeah. Oh and I'd like to see the giant Buddha*. In fact, I can look at my book about the religions of the world, and see what other things there are to see around the world."
A promising start. With Nina, if you engage her and encourage her to make something her own responsibility, then she runs with it.
Now Sara, on the other hand, is a bit harder:
"I'd like to go to Spain, 'cos my friend Rachel says that you can buy some really cool stuff there."
Hmmm. Bit more work to do there, I think.
* In Leshan, Sichuan.