Many people, however, thought I was crazy for taking my son in the first place. "He's not going to remember anything!" they said. And, "That's an awful lot of money to spend - he's too young to appreciate it!"
Also, two weeks before we left, he tripped down the stairs at his Grandparent's home and broke his arm. Yet another reason added to a long list on why I shouldn't take my son to Italy with me.
I was a single mom at the time, and pretty broke having just finished grad school, but I was set to start a new, public school job in the fall, and I had the entire summer free, they make waterproof casts nowadays, and my son was curious and excited about the prospect of traveling to far away lands, so I asked myself, as I often do: If not now, when?
|Freshening up in una fontana|
I spent my last year in college in Rome, and I ended up falling in love and staying long afterward. By age five, my son had already heard countless stories of my adventures in Rome. I was so eager to share the beauty of Italy with him, and he was (and is still) a bright and curious boy. Before our trip, I taught him some Italian so he could communicate if only a bit. I read him books about Rome and told him what to expect. He helped pack his suitcase (i.e. filled up a suitcase with Legos between his clothes). I taught him to navigate the airport and he lugged around his very own carry-on.
|When in Rome, do as the Romans do: Breakfast on the go with fresh tarts from the pasticceria in the |
Piazza di Testaccio.
Daniel was awestruck by Rome, in the best way possible: in that child-like wonder way. The fountains around every corner thrilled him - you could drink the freshest water ever from them! The food, the smells, the other language ringing in his ears - he just soaked it all in, like the little sponge all children are. The history was lost on him, but he was enchanted by Bernini's elephant at Santa Maria sopra Minerva, by the Pantheon, which had an excellent ramp for racing matchbox cars and a cool hole that rain poured through at its center, by the many Spanish steps that were so fun to race down, and, of course, by gelato. I promised him a gelato every day and I followed through (admittedly an easy promise to make).
|Racing matchbox cars down a ramp in front of the Pantheon|
The Italians adored my son. The shopkeepers and restaurant owners and waiters - actually, come to think about it - just about everyone - doted on him. People gave him little trinkets and special desserts left and right. By the end of the trip, he was speaking basic phrases in Italian with a charming little accent. I insisted that he order and ask for things himself, and I sometimes let him lead the way around the cobblestoned streets and piazzas. I would ask him to figure out the train and bus schedules, and have him count our coins. I think this all gave him a boost as he started on his own journey into self-confidence.
To this day, my son is the best travel companion ever: he is in charge of watching the arrivals and departures and gate changes; he's the one who figures out the wifi. He is extremely open to new languages and cultures. He has read many a book on Roman gladiators and gods. He has furthered his Italian speaking skills and often uses them with his little sister. He sounds almost snobby when he orders in Italian restaurants because he pronounces everything correctly!
And my son did remember Italy. He remembered the drunk lady, fishing for coins in the Trevi Fountain, he remembered the craziness that ensued after Italy won the World Cup, he remembered how we used to stay up super late at night and always catch the latest bus (Bad Mom Alert: I never bothered to adjust the two of us to the new time schedule - we just stayed out late and slept in). We returned last summer, and he remembered many of the places I'd taken him before. He remembered his favorite gelatos and pizzerie; the sights and sounds were all too familiar. He feels close to Italy now, I'd say; they have a past together.
I can't even express how happy I was to introduce my son to another country. It was a complete and utter joy. I am convinced that children should travel early, and often, and I can't wait to explore more of this wonderful world with my children.
|Celebrating Italy's World Cup Win|