My husband and I are rebels. Ok, not really, but sometimes it feels like it. I mean, despite everyone’s wisdom about waiting to travel until kids are bit older, we packed our bags and took our 3 year old to Italy. We flew planes, rode buses, paddled in gondolas, sat in taxis, and rode trains. It was quite the adventure and I’m so glad we listened to our instincts instead of waiting to take the trip.
Our little one got to experience another part of the world through tastes, sounds and interesting new sites. She learned a few words in Italian, fell in love with gelato, and survived 2 hour dinners. My husband and I also learned right along with her. We learned that children are flexible. As long as they have food to eat, something to entertain them, and the security of a familiar face (mom or dad) they can thrive.
While we left behind her familiar toys, bowls of steaming Vietnamese noodles (her absolute favorite meal stateside) and her beloved Sparky-dog, she quickly found new pleasures. Her new favorite meal was also a noodle dish but this time, it was spaghetti with fresh clams and shrimp. She couldn’t get enough of all the fresh seafood everywhere.
She traded her toys at home for a simpler kind of entertainment…people watching. She had so much fun watching all the hand gestures being used as they were speaking in Italian. She loved chasing the birds along the streets. She loved to just stop and listen to the language.
Entertainment was all around. Riding the bus was a new experience. And we certainly didn’t have any gondolas back home.
And my favorite lesson?
We had just boarded our train in Milan, and had a 2 hour ride to get to our next destination, Venice. A little girl and her father boarded right after us and sat across the aisle. We exchanged smiles with her father, and our little one said “hello!” his daughter. She responded with a loud “Ciao!”
We settled into our seats and to our delight, found that the conversation between the two continued. Our little one would say something in English and she would respond in Italian. And then both little girls would erupt in giggles.
This continued on until we arrived at our destination. Both girls hugged, and then held hands and asked each respective parent if they could continue playing. Then both teared up as we said no.
That was the moment that I learned that childhood has it’s own language. And it’s universal.