I write this with impenetrable jet lag. My family and I returned home from Europe yesterday. So, today I have tried to re-introduce vegetables into my diet, apply face masks, deep condition my hair, pluck my eyebrows, detox my son from cookies and movies, and in general face the impending doom of mass made pizza. If I’m being honest, I’ll probably write a few posts about this trip, because I am like your basic hometown white girl who posts photos of the same trip a year later.
This trip mostly took us around Italy. To Naples and its the gorgeous, beachy surroundings. Its’ water is so clear and salty, it’s fish so fresh, its cliffs edge so rugged and defiant – they take your breath away. It was no surprise to me to hear the phrase “Vedi Napoli e poi muori! which translates to “See Naples and die” due to it’s beauty, there will be nothing more beautiful to see. Mount Vesuvius stood as a quiet reminder that Mother Earth can fight back. To Rome, where its culture and history is so obvious, the remains stand astutely proud of their unique heritage; never letting the passing of time completely cancel out their magnificence. And lastly, Florence. A town as twisted in its artisan past that the bumps of life can still be circled back to every night. The music in every plaza carries the torch once carried by more conventional creative vessels.
Each city took my breath away (not to play favorites, but Florence made me cry at first sight). However, the more I think of the thousands of years of culture and art and history that I could have been absorbing, the more I realized I was comparing myself and worrying about my parenting duties.
As some of you may know, one of my original goals was to lose weight. Being in Italy and not holding back on all the cuisine and wines, added to this complex and no amount of cheese could fix it. But then again, by comparing myself to every freaking Italian woman with golden, beautiful skin and every beautifully dressed tourist – I took away from my experience which I totally regret.
Beautiful women would pass and I’d avoid looking at my red undertone skin and eczema flareups (from stopping keto) my little breakouts and stare at these literal golden goddesses. I’d check out my torn shorts and H&M discount bin shirts and wonder how these other women weren’t sweating through their elaborate tied up and down dresses. How their hair was clean and sleek and mine frizzed like an unconditioned poodle. How their nails stayed unchipped and perfectly trimmed, as I stressed chewed mine as my son began to cry in the middle of a restaurant for the 10433 time.
Until I took my son to a boutique cafe in Florence where he ate live pate’ and I thought, I can’t be doing that bad. A few thoughts jumped out to me. One, why was I doing this? Maybe these girls who traveled to Italy had more resources than I had to pack larger bags (and had these beautiful outfits). Maybe these women didn’t want to worry about walking endless miles which allowed them to not dress according to the sweat meter. Or maybe these other females didn’t have their baby with them in a world that is not too baby friendly. My son likes to play with my hair (see: chew on) and likes to pull my shirt down so I have to dress to make this hard on him. Most importantly, why the heck does it matter? They make the choices that are right for them, I happen to like easy and plain while traveling. It makes my life easier and therefore I am happier. Two, I did not like feeling like I had to justify myself as a mother to these strangers.
Sure, my son pooped his pants and it got all over his clothes while I was inside the Colosseum. Sure, my son pooped so much that my husband and I had to throw away multiple pieces of his clothing. Sure, he was naked (except for a diaper) while we walked through the ancient ruins of the Forum. The mighty centers of worship looked down on my son’s nipples as we caravaned by. The point of the matter was, I did not want people to think I was a shitty mom just because my son kept shitting himself. (side note** Mi Vida, if you’re reading this when you’re older…I’m sorry, but you shit so much, that I had to write about it).
As we walked passed crowds of people, I turned to my friend and whispered “I want pizza. Also, everyone is staring.” To which he replied, “I actually just saw a girl walk by, thinking she was judging you, but then she said to her friend, ‘I wish I could be treated like that baby.'” So once again, I overthought a situation. Why would I give myself so much credit as to think people would use up their attention on me, their thoughts, their looks? After all, were were in beautiful Italy – no one is looking at me or my son’s butt crack.
I hope this is a push in the loving direction. A thought that possibly, people aren’t noticing the negatives that I notice about myself every day. My unbrushed hair, my lack of extra clothing for my son, my dirty legs from running around playing soccer with my son. Maybe these people were recognizing we are all just trying to do the right thing. We are all just trying to survive. You do you, you be you, you act how you want to act, because you are the fortunate recipient and creator of your life – no one else gets that role. Reciprocate this action. Don’t judge people back. Don’t look a stranger in the eyes and assume their life. Look at yourself the way your children look at you. You are their protector, their heroines, their parent. You have brought life into this world. You have braved travel. You have rejoiced in the cultivation of experience and gratitude. Live your life through the lens of your babies and you will never need shade again.
And if someone is looking at you, while you are walking through the Sistene Chapel, dayyuuummmmm you must be one hot tamale, look at you, showing up Michelangelo.
In the meantime, I wanted to let you all profit from my misfortune by giving you some tips on surviving an international flight with a toddler. I didn’t find too much guidance when I looked for some tips on this, so I hope you find this helpful.
- Anything goes on an international flight. My son doesn’t want too much TV at home and his sweets are limited. Not up in here, not up in the air. We took our Amazon Fire and downloaded three movies he could watch. I baked some banana chocolate chips cookies. We took some stickers and a ball. Nothing is worse than a screaming baby for hours on hand. Know you child and know what would work for them. Even some Benadryl if it is okay with their doctor, to help them sleep.
- Understand that Europe, in my opinion and aside from London, are not baby friendly. Like in the action of changing my son’s diaper outside of the Colosseum, I did so on a giant, ancient boulder in the middle of public, because that was my best option. There are few baby changing station, there are few ramps, so keep this in mind while going out to explore. **This elevator didn’t even work.
- If your child likes to be strapped on, by all means this may be the best way to do it – unless its summer because it gets so hot. We had a little mini, umbrella stroller that we could fold up and down without hassle and could each take a side and carry up stairs when need be.
- If you son or daughter still drinks milk, recognize that they pasteurize their milks different than in America. Our son is sensitive to lactose and helllllllo this caused the many blow outs. On this note, it is also pretty difficult to find Almond Milk, but it can be done. Often, not in the refrigerated section of the store – Latte di Mandorla.
- In most larger cities in Europe, there are water fountains that have the most wonderful, cold water brought down from the mountains. If your child needs a cold drink, don’t waste your money on store bought water, just find a water fountain and keep a bottle handy.
- Research some places ahead of time where your kid can get out and play. Being stuck in a stroller for hours while their parents look through ruins or museums is taxing. For instance, in Florence, we wandered through an old church then crossed the street to play soccer in the plaza next door.
- Jet Lag. Leading up the trip, I started putting our son to sleep 15 minutes early for every day for the 10 days leading up to the trip. This helped with 2.5 hours. Then, if you can get them to sleep at the appropriate times of your destination city on the flight over, that is best. I’m lucky, that my son can stay up if he is stimulated with minimal (HA!) crankiness, so we kept him up as late as we could to combat jet lag on the first day we arrived.
- Toddlers are at the age where they get frustrated when they can’t communicate what they want. In a foreign country, this frustration is even greater. Be calm, ask questions, recognize they are in a strange place and just want to understand.
- Always carry extra clothing. In my case, at least two extra outfits every time I went out. We packed a little gym bag to make sure everyone knew we were tourist, but also so we could carry baby supplies in a minimal and hands free fashion.
- When they nap, let them nap. To me, I’d take a rested baby over a tired one any day. Even if it meant I would lose a little sleep, I’m here for that.
- Finally, they may need extra cuddles. They are in a strange place, give them all the love they need.
- Pack light yourself. The more free hands, the better. Here’s a post on how I packed in a book bag for 10 days.
If no one has told you lately, mom/dad, you’re doing a great job. You are astounding. You are resourceful. You are someone’s hero.