Not everyone in Paris felt the same way, but women in Italy couldn’t get enough of Heather Greenwood Davis’s kids when she took them on a trip.
Heather Greenwood Davis photo/For the Toronto Star
I took a baby to Europe.
Two, actually. My sons were 11 months and almost 3 when my husband and I headed off for a two-week stay in France and Italy. At the time, everyone from work colleagues to mere acquaintances had an opinion. Some people were supportive, but most were insulting.
“What was I thinking?” It was “unfair” and “a waste” since the kids wouldn’t remember. I’d miss out on the “best of Europe” because of diaper changes and potty breaks. Looking to the Internet for solace was a mistake. Most sites said, “Don’t do it” and then went on to talk about what trips would be like when the babies were older.
We ignored them and went anyway.
Some of what the negative Nellies said was true. It is harder to see the Mona Lisa with a 3-year-old under foot. There isn’t much chance of a romantic stroll with an 11-month-old strapped to your chest. And yes, wine consumption becomes tempered when you know you’re going to have to get up in the middle of the night for a nightmare or cuddle request.
But “unfair?” C’mon. When’s the last time you heard anyone over the age of 30 bemoan travelling as a child?
And while it’s true that the kids have few memories of the time (isn’t that what photos are for anyway?), the naysayers were assuming that I was doing the trip for the kids. I wasn’t. I did it for me. And the benefits were fantastic.
I remember it all:
• Being stopped in the streets so Italians I’d never met could play with the bambinos.
• Feeling more relaxed than a new mother is probably supposed to as I watched my oldest kick around a soccer ball in a field overlooking a vineyard and the baby crawling happily in the grass.
• Watching the kids meet kids from the neighbourhood and share an afternoon despite language barriers.
• The feeling that I could do it. That these kids, God love ’em, were joining my life not ending my adventure potential.
(One thing that certainly helped was Ciao Bambino. The service specializes in helping families with young kids find accommodations and activities abroad.)
It wasn’t all roses.
• The “oops I spilled the last bottle of formula and there aren’t any convenience stores on the back route to Pisa” incident.
• The disappointment at being turned away from several “nice” restaurants in Paris who weren’t keen on serving “les petits enfants”.
• The mistake of trying to drive in Florence made worse by trying to do it with two tired, cranky kids in the back and two tired, cranky parents up front.
All incidents that — in the moment — made me wonder if I had been foolish to try, but in the years that have followed those times are rolled up into great memories.
It was our first big trip as a family and it set the tone for our travelling family life.
No regrets here.
Heather Greenwood-Davis is a Toronto-based freelance writer.