Taking My Kids Where They Don’t ‘Belong’ is One of My Favorite Things
Here's a hot tip to knowing you're the first person to bring a child to the hotel you just checked in to: When the manager sees your baby and asks, "He's not crying, is he?" I know this because in August I brought the first child ever to stay at the recently opened ultra-hip Life House Hotel on Nantucket, and these very words were spoken to me.
Now, in the Travel category, I'm pretty good at taking my kids to places I shouldn't. Yet the caretaker's answer - as they are called at Life House - gave me a pause: Maybe this time my philosophy of dragging my children everywhere had taken me a little too far. The combination of dizzying stairs, exquisite collection of crystal glassware, and a clientele where not one person was over 28 made me one of those kid-friendly hotels for a moment where you can order chicken fingers anytime the day.
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The rest of my family wasn't that messed up. My two and a half year old daughter found the stairs the tallest. She was happy about the numerous possibilities to master the challenge. In the meantime, I have lost a few years of my life in witnessing this learning experience. Did we get some dirty looks from other patrons? Naturally. But did we have a great time? Absolutely.
After three days at this incredibly trendy, pint-sized leopard carpeted hotel, I realized that putting my kids on adult lawns was lovely, especially after months of quarantine with the blessed little ones. These days my children are coming everywhere, partly out of necessity and partly because I want to.
A few weeks ago, I brought my children at 5 p.m. A Bronx Tale drive-in show at the Juicy Lucy BBQ in Staten Island. As we pulled into the parking lot, the guard said, "You know we have Disney movies, don't you?" I knew that. But I was there to research a story within a short period of time. Fortunately, my son is too young to understand the obscenity of the film and my daughter was too intrigued by a massive sundae to have noticed the violence of the Mafia. (In any case, I made some contributions to their "therapy funds".) Although no other young children were present, both children seemed to be at home in the midst of a large amount of fried food and sugar.
Remember that other societies and cultures do not distinguish as much between child and adult friendly. It's a very American construct. Sara Zeske, author of Achtung Baby: An American mother about the German art of raising independent children, told me that she took her young children - including her 3-year-old daughter - to beer gardens in Berlin. “In Berlin there is a small area for toddlers with some sand. The Americans would be horrified. But they had non-alcoholic slushies and balloons for the kids. German society, especially Berlin, makes everyday life more adaptable for children, ”said Zeske.
In May last year I brought my then 16 month old daughter to Greece for six days. If you're wondering what's more intense than a transatlantic flight with a toddler who doesn't have their own seat, try two transatlantic flights, some of which have a connection. I used the word "fun" when I came up with the idea to come to my mother. Some may say this was a misnomer or misleading label, but it was one of the best weeks of my life. Do I remember my daughter not sleeping for 12 hours when she got home from Frankfurt? Yes. But the snapshot of the trip in my head - the one that made me do it all over again, but this time with her younger brother - is the reflection of how much fun she had in the Mediterranean, eating copious amounts of olives and eating a once in a lifetime Bonding experience with her mother and grandmother.
I might as well treat you to stories of breakdowns, tantrums, and body fluids. I can already hear my friend Natasha tell me, "Look, this is why you shouldn't bring your children to these places." In the Parents category, don't try this if you care about your health, there was a family trip to Wyoming in December with my brother and sister-in-law and their two children. Suffice it to say we got through a 14 hour day of travel, including five hours of driving on icy roads, with three children under five while I was six months pregnant. The most common answers were, "Why should you do this?" and "are you crazy?"
"Yes" to the latter. The former, because that's the only way to get to Brush Creek Ranch in Saratoga, Wyoming, one of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. In a textbook case of taking your kids somewhere you shouldn't, we had dinner one night with two toddlers and a 4 year old at the Cheyenne Club, an upscale sheepskin rugs restaurant, a Prix fixe -Menu and no other kids in sight. Of course there was no children's menu, so my daughter ate a whole dinner consisting of packets of ketchup. My niece got volcanic altitude sickness. Would we do it again? I dont know. Did everyone survive and do we laugh at it endlessly now? Yes.
In essence, these experiences are about bridging the gap between life in the children's area and the world of adults. I firmly believe that the adult world is more interesting - and not just for adults. Here children can try new foods and experiences and broaden their horizons. It is also the universe that they will eventually live in. That is not to say that children should not have their own orbits that are free from adult limitations and expectations. But learning to exist in both is good for everyone.
I asked Zeske why she took her children everywhere, including taking her 9- and 12-year-olds to the symphony in Berlin, which she admitted was a little premature. “You want your children to discover something and have a sense of adventure. If you never reach their limits, they won't understand. "(She does draw the line, however, to bring her to nightclubs.)
The deeper psychology that keeps many parents from taking places in their children that they "shouldn't" has more to do with fear of what others think of our parenting, says Zeske. She is spot on. I certainly huddled as I thought about what other people are saying about me in restaurants, planes, and hotels. I still remember the collapse of the titans when my daughter had a café in Vienna - it was so epic that I can still vividly remember it 18 months later, and I wouldn't be surprised if the whole city persona us both would have declared non grata. I understand that some adults don't want children in their room, especially those who cause tantrums. And these types of incidents can be especially irritating to people who have chosen not to have children. Perhaps this is no consolation, but I am sure that the debacle at the Viennese café helped confirm many people's life choices to remain child-free. You are welcome.
But as Zeske emphasizes: “Children have a right to exist. Everyone was once a child. And we can't expect them to act like adults. “In previous generations, especially the upper class, there was an ethos that children should stay at home. My grandmother, who was a full-time aid worker, said she never took my father or aunt anywhere when she was young.
Nevertheless, she and her grandchildren turned the script over. When I was twelve my grandparents took me to visit their friends in Zurich. One evening the friends were hosting an adults-only dinner. I was incredulous and outraged because of course I saw myself mature enough to take part. 25 years later, I still remember looking out the window at the adults socializing and wishing I could be there.
Perhaps this lasting memory motivates me to bring my children closer to the world of adults and vice versa. Or maybe life is just too short to skip a juicy travel option just because little people are in tow. Either way, in our time of preciously rare personal experiences and the search for fun outside the home, my list of places for children who are already young is shrinking rapidly.
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