London, travel and crowded tubes

I’m a bit of a nervous traveller. I’m claustrophobic, pessimistic and a worrier. I’ve always been nervous of going anywhere on my own with the kids – I worry that one of them will have an accident, get lost, fall ill or that they will argue and I won’t be able to control their behaviour. These fears are irrational, but they’re real to me.

My husband, on the other hand, has no such worries. He’s taken the three of them up Snowdon without me, he takes them all to Man Utd games a couple of times a season and, on the rare times he has days off work in the school holidays, he will happily take them all on day trips on his own. Until recently, the furthest I’d taken the kids was Bristol to see the Gromits last year. It was something I wanted to do for them, but also to myself. To prove I could. My chilled-out, optimistic husband was worried I wouldn’t cope. That we’d get lost or do something stupid. But we didn’t. We had a good day.

This year, I’ve been to London quite a lot (for me). I’ve been four times – twice on my own and twice with the kids. I can even get slightly nervous of travelling on my own, but it’s nothing like the fear of losing the kids on a crowded street or train. Generally, I quite enjoy the peace.

When we got invited to London to the Guinness World of Records, it was too good an opportunity to miss. I just said yes. I didn’t give myself time to think about if we’d manage.

As it happens, my husband was working in London that day (as he often does, and as he did when I took the kids to London for Got To Dance). He got the same trains as us, but didn’t sit with us. It was reassuring to have him there, but as soon as we got off the train we went our separate ways. It was just me and the kids.

It wasn’t an easy tube journey from Paddington to the Tower of London and it seemed like we had to change lines a lot. My younger son is a remarkable navigator – much more reliable than me – so he took charge of finding the way. And he did very well.

PicMonkey londontravelCollage

A year or two ago I was nervous of getting on any tube, and would completely refuse to get on a crowded tube. We had to take buses or taxis if the tubes were too crowded. But, even though I wasn’t keen, I just got on them the other day without batting an eyelid, however crowded. Somehow I wasn’t scared any more, and I certainly didn’t want to show the kids I was scared. I just said: ‘It’s fine, we’re only for a couple of stops’ to reassure them, but also myself.

I don’t know how many tubes we took that day. I’m so proud of myself for not getting stressed and coping with crowds and finding our way without worrying. It’s taken over 13 years, but I finally think I can cope with taking the kids out on my own.

Author: Sarah Mummy

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22 Comments

  1. Well done you. I’ve lived in London and its surroundings for my whole life and it doesn’t faze me at all travelling on the tube. My kids are so used to it, although my daughter is still a little worried since an incident when she managed to run for the tube and I almost didn’t make it. I think it is more worrying when you’re not sure where you are/where you’re headed and it’s so crowded. The more you do it, the easier it will be. Where will you go next time?

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    • Thanks very much! There definitely will be a next time – I have to keep the momentum up now I’ve got the hang of it, I don’t want to get scared again!

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  2. I think things change a lot as the children get older. Such a sense of achievement isn’t it? Love it that your husband sat away from you!

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    • Yes, it’s definitely easier now the kids are older. It’s good to know I can rely on the boys to help me – and they’ve got phones too if I lose them!

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  3. I think things change a lot as the children get older. Such a sense of achievement isn’t it? Love it that your husband sat away from you!

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    • Hubby’s excuse was that we had booked seats and he didn’t!

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  4. Good for you! And definitely something to be proud of. I see it as two achievements as travelling with children is challenging enough, but travelling to and around London is just as challenging, and you did both! We took ours to London a few times, we lost Boy J when he was only about 3 or 4 in the British Museum, he got swept away in the crowds. I definitely had a panic then, but he wasn’t too far thankfully. I agree with Suzanne, it gets much easier the older (and taller!) they get! Well done x

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    • Thanks very much! I can’t believe how much I’ve changed in the space of just two years, but I don’t feel like I have to grip onto the kids like I used to have to. That must have been very scary losing your son! x

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  5. Well done Sarah, it’s a big thing to overcome that fear. I lived in London for ten years so I think I’m now immune to big cities, but they can be really intimidating until you learn your way around x I still avoid doing trips on my own with my three though 🙂

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    • Doing trips with three kids is definitely challenging, so I’m not surprised you don’t do them! I lived in London for a couple of years and I was reasonably confident then, but I lost it all when I moved out and then had the kids.

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  6. That’s a biggie Sarah! Even though I was born and bred a Londoner, now as a Mum things are different but son is like yours and a good navigator. I’ve felt like you when travelling abroad on my own – an irrational sense that something awful might happen. It was for this reason, I was quite grateful we didn’t get to see the Poppies which we set out to do the other day. This was the reason: bit.ly/1xXBDC2 Hope it was all worth it for you and well done for persevering and being brave. x Jo

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    • Thanks very much. It was definitely all worth it! The world is certainly a scarier place when you’re responsible for other little lives and you have to protect them (and also protect yourself, because how will they cope without you?). x

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  7. Yay well done you!! I absolutely love travelling but I remember when z was a baby and I used to be really anxious unless I could picture my entire journey, plus places to stop. He now loves it as much as I do. Infact, he never stops asking where we’re going next!

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    • Bless him! You are such a good traveller. It’s nice to hear that Z is already growing up that way. It’s not surprising with you as his main influence!

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  8. That’s a definitely a #loudnproud moment. Well done you! I can definitely relate to this one. I get nervous too when I’m on my own with my daughter, like you I keep thinking that I might lose her in a crowd. Then again, I guess all parents are bit paranoid when dealing with the thought of losing their children! 😉

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    • Thanks very much. I’m sure all parents are a bit nervous of losing their kids. It’s definitely better now my kids are bigger. The boys have mobile phones and my daughter knows my phone number. I kept hold of her hand all the time, and held my younger son’s hand too in the most crowded areas.

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  9. I can completely understand you being nervous about this. I am too! I hope I get to go to a few events, but worry about taking the kids along. hopefully it will be ok. I can see i’m a little like you in my worry

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    • Glad it’s not just me! It’s not easy managing kids when you’re travelling and on your own. It’s OK if everything goes to plan, but when does anything with kids ever go completely to plan?!

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  10. Wow, I hadn’t realised you felt that way. I used to worry about getting round with L when she was little as it was all so new, now I’m often on public transport on my own with 4 small(ish) children. But then people think I’m weird as I much prefer public transport in London to driving (we don’t have a car) and I especially love travelling on the tube!

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    • Yes, I’m a bit of a worrier! I don’t think there’s much need for a car in London, but I do think you’re a bit mad to love the tube! Am impressed that you can confidently travel with four kids.

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  11. I think a lot of it depends on what you are used to as well. If you have to do it regularly, you get used to it. I always manage when I go to London (with a few exceptions, obviously) It is daunting though with the kids as you have to think about them as well as where you are going. I always feel quite relieved when we get home and it is all a bit quieter and calmer.

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    • You’re right. I think even the fact that I’ve been to London four times this year made it easier for me. I need to keep the momentum up now so I don’t start getting stressed again!

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