What we’ve learned is that traveling with a baby isn’t a whole lot different than a regular tour — you just have, well, a baby. You might stop a little more frequently, or you might not — at least no more than if you have a tiny-tanked bandmate. You still stop to stretch your legs or to get gas, and that’s when you pop on a fresh diaper and feed the little guy. You set out to explore a city, and you stuff the little fella in a sling or carrier, and off you go. You can still stay at friends’ houses, only now you have a bassinet. There’s a lot more stuff — toys, clothes, a walker, baby blankets, stuffed animals — but tour is usually kinda cramped anyway. And there are always non-baby-spurred predicaments: like how we didn’t plan on campgrounds in New England shutting down mid-September. Lio, though, makes it easy on us: he’s kind of a jackpot baby. He loves music and meeting people, it is fairly easy to coax him into a long nap, and he doesn’t often cry.
Our nights usually go something like this: if there’s no show scheduled, we’ll explore, find an early campsite, make a fire, and watch movies, read, and talk. If there is a show, we’ll pull close to the venue and one of us will scope the place out while the other stays behind to gather baby stuff and ready equipment for carrying. (Lio is at the age now where he’ll usually fall asleep in the bouncy motorhome, so this is when he slowly comes-to and begins his big Grin!-I’m-awake! Woot! game.) The first person’ll come back with a report: it’s cool in there, and the people are really nice! We go on at nine! Or whatever.
We’ll bring Lio in, get him set up with some toys, haul in our instruments, and hang out til the show starts. Sometimes Lio will race around in his walker and make friends. Other times, he’ll drift off to a sound sleep before we even start. Sometimes he’ll be in a Mood, and only Mom’s arms can soothe him. We have a together-set worked up with keyboards, drums, and electric guitars, but have to forgo the elaborate set-ups in that situation — those are the nights we take turns holding Baby Lio and playing solo sets. If the show goes late and Lio’s not yet asleep, Hawk and I take turns putting him to bed and hanging out in the motor home. Or we’ll bow out together at a certain point to run the heater, cozy up, and talk about the show and the day.
…we have the freedom of not having to worry about Lio interrupting other people’s sleep, and we don’t have to run back out to the street in the middle of the night if we’ve forgotten to bring a baby essential inside.
While there are plenty of things that haven’t made touring any more difficult with our baby, there are also plenty of considerations we take that probably seem first nature by now. We have to figure out naptimes. We keep bedtime in mind. We’re always surveying our venues, hangouts, and potential non-motor-home sleeping quarters for baby-friendliness. Luckily, we’re self-sufficient: we have two forms of heat (propane and electric), plenty of blankets, and everything we need inside our mobile house. We’re often offered extra rooms and places to stay, but the motor home is usually our best bet. It’s quiet and cozy, we have the freedom of not having to worry about Lio interrupting other people’s sleep, and we don’t have to run back out to the street in the middle of the night if we’ve forgotten to bring a baby essential inside. It always feels good to pack up after a show, say goodbye, and head off to find a quiet campgrounds.
A few things about touring with a baby are flat-out different. While musicians might often get strange looks when they pile out of large vehicle, we now get even more strange looks. (Even more confused than those from the Californians who stared at Trudy, the 15-passenger It’s True! tour beast with the lettering spelling a former church affiliation still faintly visible, her cargo crass, unwashed, mostly bearded and often hungover.) Something about Glen (our motor home) just makes people stare, sometimes in wonder, sometimes in awe, and often, it seems, in disbelief. The expressions are exacerbated when one of us emerges from the back door with a fresh-outta-the-oven baby in our arms.
One thing I was pretty nervous about is breastfeeding in public. I prefer to feed the baby in the motor home, because it’s more comfortable and private. But at least once a night there’s a point where Lio gets hungry and it just makes more sense to park it and feed him right there, draping a blanket over us. I’m pretty good at it, as I imagine all breastfeeding moms on the go are — so good, in fact, that people often come up to talk without even realizing I’m feeding him. Sometimes they’ll even leave the conversation still not having realized — they’ll just think he’s sleeping. There have been a couple of eye-rolling moments where some dude clearly pointed or motioned to a co-worker to look at my not-even-visible boobs, gasp, in public. (Quick, act like you’ve never seen a pair before.) But, as our story goes, most people are super accommodating, recognizing the extreme importance of a nursing mom. I’ve heard all kinds of horror stories of moms being asked to feed their babies somewhere else, but have never encountered such an awful thing myself. (Though I’ll admit I had plenty of speeches prepared in my mind, should someone say something.)
As time went on, our downtime was lacking, and the baby clearly enjoyed himself more and was more relaxed when it was just the three of us.
There were a few factors that made us consider getting off the road and hunkering down for awhile after touring for months. As time went on, our downtime was lacking, and the baby clearly enjoyed himself more and was more relaxed when it was just the three of us. His sleep patterns started to be affected by the places we stayed — not wanting him to cry when we were house guests, we were much more apt to take him into bed with us at strange hours or pop up to walk him around instead of letting him cry for a few minutes til he fell back to sleep. When we camped, we worried that he was warm enough in his crib, and would usually bring him into our bed in the middle of the night. Lio’s kind of a bed hog — covers, the whole bit — and we’d usually wake up to his toes in our face or his hands pinching our noses as he stretched out, long ways, taking up more room than either of us on our motor home bed, which is really only big enough for the two of us in the first place. We knew we needed to spread out and enjoy our own space for awhile. With an album on our minds and projects brewing in our hearts, we opened the floodgates for possibilities of places to live — and soon found one.
So far, touring with our son is easily THE favorite thing I’ve ever done. Seeing and experiencing all the places we’ve traveled through our baby’s eyes has been the ultimate reward. Whatever Lio enjoys becomes instantly enjoyable to us. Whereas before we might judge shows based on audience reception or amount of merch sold, our sense of satisfaction now mostly comes from watching Lio learn, pick up new information, and meet all his new friends. Seeing him stare intently at the fingers of a guitarist, or lean forward to soak up someone’s song from our laps, front row, enjoying all of the music around him, is our main satisfaction.
Our methods aren’t foolproof, but they’re ours. We’ve created memories that are a priceless part of our family story.