x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Travelling with Kids: why safety is always a concern

Despite his intelligence, my son's propensity for risk is undiminished with age.

Looking back on our travels with my son these past nine years, I'm struck by how his talent for getting into perilous situations hasn't diminished one bit. In January, in Cambodia, he nearly fell into the moat surrounding Angkor Wat. Apparently, he was "only checking for crocodiles". I did not find this funny at all, because I do not have a sense of humour when it comes to monkeying around with deep water or steep stairs.

Nine times out of 10, Calvin's near misses have involved water. The worst scare we had was at a resort in Rayong, a few hours' drive from Bangkok, when he was four years old. Calvin and I went downstairs for an early morning swim on the last day and, a couple of hours later, were about to return to our room when he wrenched himself from my grasp and took a flying leap into the deep end of the pool. My husband, who'd just arrived by the poolside and was going on about the need to check out early to avoid the traffic, dived in fully dressed, complete with car keys and mobile phone in his pocket.

Calvin was grounded for a week, but still insists that if we hadn't gone in after him, he'd have surfaced soon enough and gone on to practise his strokes.

It's hard to explain to friends and family (especially my mother) that we're not careless parents, really; we watch over him with an eagle eye, grimly holding on to his struggling body when he's trying to make a sudden break for freedom. This used to be easy enough to manage when he was little, but he's nearly 10 years old now and restraining him is becoming difficult.

"He's an accident waiting to happen," my husband said the other day. "You know, the kind of person who trips himself up walking down the hallway in his own home."

But the boy is also a bit of a disaster magnet. A good illustration of this is the time we visited a tiger zoo in Thailand. He was about five years old, and we were having photographs taken with what was should have been a tiny cub but turned out to be a semi-grown tiger.

There we were, faces aching from smiling, the tiger lying across our laps with its head turned all the way round towards Calvin, while the photographer shouted, "Suay mak! Suay mak!" (very beautiful). Then we got up to leave and thus ensued five minutes of utter chaos: the animal growled and went for Calvin, my husband wildy swung his rucksack at it, I tried distracting it with my new hat and the Japanese tourists in the queue behind us began to scream. The attendant finally managed to get the tiger away and we escaped unscathed but Calvin, who was tremendously excited by the whole thing, didn't learn any lesson. All these years later, I've realised he probably never will.