What I find the most remarkable, when I look at their expressions, watch them interact with each other, and when I talk to (or at) them, is how little anything has changed. They are neither thrown by the situation, nor bowled over by it. The usual emotional triggers still apply: tiredness, hunger, desserts and gift shops. Just like at home.
In one way, this is great. I was following a Freakonomics blog thread a few weeks back about whether it is a good thing to aim to make our kids happy. Of course we want them to be happy, but should that be the primary objective or should we concentrate on other things and let happiness take care of itself, in whatever form that might take?
What I would wish for my daughters (and I am not suggesting for a minute that this is within my gift) is that they be robust, that they take no shit that they don't think they deserve, and always want to keep going even if it's easier to stop. That they be able to distinguish a friend from an enemy, and a setback from a disaster. The fact that the last week has changed nothing in the dynamics of our family might just be evidence of this kind of robustness. They still bicker, and then eventually hug and then go back to bickersville. I still have to tell them to do the same thing three times before they even begin to listen. They are still more interested in dessert than main course (in fact they are more interested in dessert than in most other things they've seen with the possible exception of the pandas in Chengdu.)
So what on Earth was the point in bringing them around the world in the first place? Travel isn't a collection of sights with their explanatory plaques alongside. Travel is supposed to be about who you are and how you relate to what you find on the way. We are moving around as a unit and much of this trip is about who we are as a family. Because we are living in such close quarters ("Daddy, what did I tell you about snoring? - Sara 3am) and doing everything together, then the good and the bad get magnified. There's nowhere to hide. No school, no office, no green out the front, not even another room at the moment. If there's something we're doing wrong then we'll simply have to fix it. And when something good happens, like an unsolicited confidence from Nina - a very private young lady - then it's harder to take for granted.
So how are the kid's? They're doing great. They're having fun, learning lots about China and about their own family. They're wide awake, taking it all in and wondering what's for dessert.