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Sunday, November 07, 2010

Cultural and Parental Differences

Travel can really bring out the best, and worst in people.

From the moment I stepped off the plane in Paris, I sensed that our kids were viewed as an annoyance. At first I thought that maybe it was only when the kids screamed, but I soon realized that our family was getting harsh stares from strangers even when our kids were good. As we walked through the Paris airport I became aware of how few kids I saw. Virtually none. This was in such sharp contrast to the Minneapolis airport we had just come from. Kids in strollers, a toy store for kids. Kids, kids, kids.

In the Paris airport I wanted to tell the people who were standing, staring at us intensely, "can you cut our family some slack? we just flew from Alaska." I wished there were paper signs around the kids which said, "Just flew from Alaska. May be Grumpy". Heck, I could've used one of those signs! During our 24 hours in Paris, I continued to get the feeling from Paris folks that kids were not really welcome. Or they should be seen (maybe) and definitely not heard. This was a bummer, as we had two young, tired kids.

As we boarded the train to Spain, the feeling towards kids changed almost immediately. People on the train were smiling at the kids and as we boarded several people helped with our bags and getting onto the train. In Barcelona there were kids everywhere-even late at night. We got lots of smile from strangers as we pushed the kids in their strollers. The whole cultural attitude is very different towards children.

Now I"m not one to embrace the "Kids should be everywhere, doing everything" philosophy that many Americans have--there are some things where kids should be left at home. There are events which are only for adults and kids wouldn't fully appreciate-and kids could deter someone elses enjoyment of the event. At these events, kids really do need to be left home. But I'm also not one to balk at having kids out and about, travelling some, being in public etc. And making some noise. Kids are kids, afterall.

Patrick and I discovered that we differ on our parenting philosophies in this regard. (and we agree to disagree on this topic) I'm more in line with the Spanish Philosophy, Patrick more with the french. I think there is probably a happy medium somewhere in between which we attempt to achieve. As two people working to parent together, its good to recognize these differences and try to meet middle ground. This generally works the best!

With Stuey, there were times when he was overly tired/hungry and would start melting down--almost literally. (Balika and Sven can attest to this!!!). My thinking would be "lets get Stuey some food and/or rest and we can't expect him to be angel 3 year old boy right now." Patrick was of the mindset that a hungry/tired 3 year old boy SHOULD be able to keep it together and not cry. And be an adult. This was one of the biggest differences in thinking we had with the kids during the trip. For some reason, I think in our culture, men expect their sons to be "mini" men. Even at the age of 3, expect them to keep it together and not cry when they're tired.

It was really interesting to see how 2 cultures so close geographically could have different acceptance levels of kids. When I got home to the US, I was thrilled with the words of "oh, I remember those days" that people muttered as we strolled by them with sick Nora holding onto her throw up bag (she had a stomach virus the entire flight home. We think it was the tap water in Barcelona). All in all, I learned that I probably wouldn't travel back to France with the kids with them young. Only when they're much older. And this trip was a chance for Patrick and I to learn more about our parenting styles and differences.


-Stuey and Eilidh sharing a moment in Castelnaudary, France. I believe Eilidh may be Stuey's first crush. He wanted to sit next to her, walk next to her, talk with her....
-Taken at one of the stops on the canal trip, the girls went and tried out some grapes in the fields. oh so yummy!
-Balika and I preferred the liquified version of the grapes--wine! We discovered that bagged french wine (and boxed, too) was really good!
-Me enjoying my first European chocolate crepe. So delicious. This one had some almond something or another on it, too.
-A caricature that was done of Patrick and I in Barcelona. It was so fun to do with eachother!

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