I knew I deserved a chorus of eye rolls even as the words were leaving my mouth, but I was helpless against the logic-altering clutches of Mom Instinct. Like generations before me, I was compelled beyond all reason to say it: “I hope you girls appreciate what you’re getting to do right now! When I was a girl, I would have loved the chance…”
I fully realize that no child in the history of the human race has adopted a sudden awe for his or her circumstances based on that premise. Wonder by proxy just doesn’t work. However, I felt sure that I would be required to turn in my mom badge at the end of the day if I didn’t at least try to impart a little perspective. I mean, this is where we were walking:
And this is what the girls were saying about it: “Myyyy feeeeeeeet huuuuurrrrrt! I’m tiiiiiiiiiiiired of walking! Can we siiiiiiiiiit now?” (Never mind that we had been walking a grand total of half an hour, twenty minutes of which had already been dedicated to sitting breaks… which the girls used to play hopscotch, because no child in the history of the human race has ever voluntarily sat for longer than 2.5 seconds.) Their feet were fine; they were just bored, which is why I launched into my eye-rolling speech about how they were getting to explore Rome, an epic historical treasure trove that people from all over the world would love to see, and empire this and SPQR that, and—“Mooooomm, I’m hungry again!” Reductio ad absurdum.
This is absolutely a post for those of you who had thought we were some kind of family travel geniuses whose children channel equal parts Rick Steves and Von Trapp (ha! and again I say, ha!), but it’s also a post for me. I need the reminder that it’s okay—good, even—for my kids and I to experience life from different points of view. While I’m all but hyperventilating over how cool it is that the girls get to grow up in Italy and speak two languages and eat cornetti alla marmellata for breakfast and skip down to Rome for Easter weekend, they’re absorbing the same circumstances as matter-of-factly as they do the shoes on their feet. My wow is their normal, and it can bum me out to realize we’re not celebrating on the same page. What I forget, though, is that their normal is happy. They’re happy. My trying to hype up their experience isn’t going to change that happiness, nor should it.
When I take a step back from myself, it’s easier to remember that my girls’ individuality is a gift here as elsewhere. True, they’re not bowled over by the significance of playing where chariots used to race, but they’ll remember their dad teaching them how to throw the Aerobie and their mom demonstrating her terrible aim (“That was better than usual, Mommy!”), and even if the Palatine backdrop doesn’t make it into those memories, they’ll still be gold. And no, they’re not especially concerned with the historical intricacies of the castle we spent all afternoon exploring, but I doubt they’ll soon forget jumping on the wooden trapdoor or locking each other in the dungeons, and I wouldn’t trade their belly laughs for all the intellectual reverence in the world.