Every two or three years since 1997, Luisa and I have traveled to Portugal to visit her family. In 2002, we took our first trip with Miguel who was just 10 months old. We had all the worries that most first time parents have: "Will he terrorize the passengers on the long flight?" and "Will he eat?" and "Will he sleep?" and "Will we lose him?"
Okay, I might be alone on that last one.
But we had an entirely different set of worries too: "What if we lose his birth certificate that lists as both as his legal parents?" and "Will customs officials recognize us as a family?" and "If he gets sick while traveling, will we both be allowed to make decisions for him?"
During that first trip, Miguel was perfectly behaved on the long flights and he ate well and tried new things and we did not lose him. He did not, however, sleep but we survived that somehow. We did not lose his birth certificate but it didn't prove to be the talisman we'd hoped. Customs did not recognize us as a family. We were not allowed to wait together and go through customs together. Luisa took him through as his mother and I went through a different line and dealt with a different agent alone. It could have been worse but it certainly hurt to be separated and not seen for the family that we were.
In 2006, we went back to Portugal with our two kids. Miguel was five and Zeca was 16 months old. We didn't worry about the plane rides or eating or sleeping but the nagging worries about our kids and their birth certificates remained. We could deal with being separated. We just didn't want any problems.
That time, the customs agent read both passports carefully and then looked at us, "You are both the parents?" We answered together, "Yes." Our jet-lagged kids looked at him and he tilted his head and looked at the passports again, "Okay." We both exhaled.
We have had more kindness than trouble throughout the years but there is always that moment when Luisa and I hold our breath and wait to see if we'll be questioned, to see how we'll be treated. Traveling as a LGBT family is always an adventure.
Please join me for a discussion of LGBT family travel at the TravelingMom Twitter Party tomorrow, November 6th at 8 p.m. CST. RSVP for a chance to win one of two signed copies of Cat Cora’s Classics with a Twist: Fresh Takes on Favorite Dishes or a Residence Inn gift card valued at $250. Then, follow the #TMOM and #RIFamily hashtags to join the conversation. I'll be there chatting!
Thank you to Residence Inn by Marriot for sponsoring this discussion and post.