About nine months ago, Jean, Sasha and I attempted to visit Jean’s family in Taiwan. The trip was an almost unmitigated disaster. The moment we got on the airplane, Sasha was scared out of her not-quite-2-and-a-half-year-old wits. “I scared! I scared! she screamed, trying desperately to climb out of her own seat and into Jean’s lap. The flight attendants were not pleased. Nor were we. Once we’d reached cruising altitude, things got better (i.e., quieter), but we realized we were looking at many more hours in the air, plus a landing-and-takeoff-and-landing. Fuck. Let’s not even get into the week of extreme jetlag, universal crankiness, and touristic ambition that followed. It was not an adventure to be repeated.
At least, not until now. For the next two weeks, we are here in Rome, and things have gone—knock on wood—surprisingly smoothly so far. Almost two months ago, we began planning, mostly by preparing Sasha for the trip: getting her excited about Italy, letting her know what we’d be doing here, and informing her about the experience of being on a plane. Two books helped immensely:
1. Going on a Plane, a pretty self-explanatory book by Anne Civardi, takes us on a family trip with the Tripp family, following them as they pack suitcases, go through X-ray (but not backscatter) machines, wear seatbelts, struggle with the baggage carousel, and get ripped off by a foreign cab driver. It’s not exactly sexy or creatively drawn, but it got Sasha familiar with the basics. By the time we boarded the Alitalia flight at JFK, she knew all about overhead compartments, strapped on the seatbelt without question, and recognized—without fear—the noise of the engines. She even resisted holding hands as the plane took off—”I’m not scared!”—until we reminded her that it was, in fact, Mommy who was scared. When we finally deplaned in Rome, the woman behind us told me Sasha had been wonderful—and complained about traveling with her own child. Victory!
2. This Is Rome, the beautifully illustrated children’s book by Miroslav Sasek, is a fantastic introduction to the sights of the Eternal City. And even if its text is above the level of a 3-year-old, we’ve been making up words to go along with everything. From reading the book together, Sasha knows that Rome is all about eating pizza, noodles, and ice cream. Which is about as sophisticated as most adults ever get. Surprisingly, though, the book is also a good intro guide for us as well, and we’ll probably be using it to figure out which sites to visit, if only so we can say to Sasha, “Look! Do you remember that from the book?”
Of course, we’ve only been here a little over 24 hours. There’s still plenty of time for things to go horribly, horribly wrong. And to tell the truth, jetlag has left us all (i.e., me) a bit exhausted and cranky. But all in all, we’re doing 1000% better than last March. More updates to come, this week and next. Oh, and if you have recommendations for family-friendly things to do (and places to eat) here, I’d love to read them in the comments.