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Rules for children traveling with parents…
My Mother recently came to visit me and it gave me pause. I finally realized that my mother is not the spring chicken I’ve always considered her in my head. She’s not old by today’s standards, she’s only 72. And that to me is still young. But she is a tad over weight and it is affecting her ability to move as quickly as I would have liked. She also sleeps more than I remember. I don’t remember a time where I didn’t look at my Mom and see a young, vibrant and funny, short, round woman. There are just not enough adjectives to describe her. My Mom has also never been out of the United States. She’ll tell you she’s been to Mexico, but I’m sorry, Tijuana and Mexicali don’t count.
In 72 years, mother had never traveled further east than Houston, Texas. (A few year’s ago I took her to Virginia for my son’s high school gradation.) She is a creature of comfort and likes to be in her “zone.” Her idea of a vacation is to go from her house in San Diego to her house in Phoenix and clean it. This was also the first REAL vacation my Mom has had ever taken, so I knew I would have to be patient. There is a certain amount of patience one needs when traveling around with your parents. So this post is dedicated to the children ( younger and older) who decide to travel with their parents.
Before my mother arrived I sent her an email explaining a few things about Italy that I knew she either wouldn’t understand or like, or maybe she would just be more comfortable knowing about. Most people who travel know that things are different in other countries… Most people expect them to be. That is why they travel. But most Americans, when they travel outside of the U.S. expect everything to be, “Just like home.” I knew my Mom would be tolerant, but I didn’t want there to be any mis-understandings about these particular things:
So I thought I would give you a little heads up on the do’s and don’t here in my lovely adopted city…
Heads up! There is Doggie poo on the sidewalks here. Some of the people don’t clean up after their pets. So you need to be aware of this.
The sidewalks here are very uneven and you need to be aware of this also. My friend Toni who is close to your age fell several times
((OK TONI… I know you weren’t that clumsy or that close to her age… but I was trying to drive the point home!))
and the last time smashed her face into ground. Luckily many people helped her and she was ok except for a few bumps and bruises. Try to get a little exercise before you come. There is A LOT of walking and it will help with your balance.
((My mother lives on 250 acres of beautifully landscaped hills))
There are no rules here in the city when it comes to driving or bike riding. Pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way here. And they WILL run your ass over. Not on purpose they just feel that once they are on their bike or in their car no one else exists.
The men here are very flirty… Enough said.
There are gypsy’s all over. YOU CANNOT trust them AT ALL! They will come to beg from you and on one side they will be stealing from you on the other. You cannot take a big purse and leave it open. Also, the Nigerians, Algerians and Tunis are rampant and will make you crazy trying to sell you their crap. They are polite enough but… I will show how to deal with them… Ok enough for now.
Of course she pretty much chose to ignore everything I told her.
She brought 3 pairs of terrible “walking” sandals that were only good for the house. She walked in the middle of the road without looking before walking. Before the trip, she hadn’t walked around anything other than her house and get in and out of her car for a restaurant or shopping excursion… no exercise before the trip. She did however, bring a nice little black raincoat and it did rain quite a bit while she was here.
I knew that my mother would have jet lag and I tried to explain this phenomenon to her. I don’t think she quite understood how she was going to feel after losing so much time and she ended up sleeping away around half of our time together. I wasn’t hurt by this but I think it upset her that she was so tired. She slept where she could, on trains and buses, as we traveled the Italian countryside, trying to get in as many places as we could in a very short period of time. This was actually upsetting to me because my mother, never having been out of the continental United States, never really got to see much of the country villas, olive trees and vineyards and so much of the country that I now call my home. It’s a little disheartening when you look over at your passed out Mom, snoring loudly on the very public train and realize how much she’s missing and that she’s not going to be around forever.
And of course there was a little bit of incontinence. Yes, my Mother peed herself. I am sure that I am going to catch hell for this when she reads it! But, there is no point in lying about it and it is funny ( in a OH GOD, NOT AGAIN sort of way…) We had just had dinner, drank copious amounts of wine and left the restaurant. It didn’t occur to me to tell my Mom to use the restroom. She is big girl and has been using the toilet on her own for a long time. But I had forgotten that my mother insists on blaming my birth (44 years ago) for lack of bladder control. My mother, being the strong, stubborn woman that she is refuses to break down and buy some pee-pee pads. So we’d start walking to our next destination and my mother would suddenly whisper, “Michelle, I need the restroom.” Italy is not the place where you just run in and out of bars and restaurant bathrooms and public bathrooms are scarce. So I would tell her to try and hold it until we got to our next destination and… Well, you get the point. She also refuses to go to the bathroom when I tell her to because she thinks I am being authoritarian. But c’mon! Help me out here… We all remember this… Our parents commanding us to go make tinkle/ pee-pee/potty, before we got in the car on one of those long family trips, we would reply that we didn’t need to go, getting into the car and about half an our into the trip, not a bathroom or bush in sight screaming, “Mommmmeeee, I gotta go pee…!” Things have naturally reverted.
When traveling with your parents you must also remember to be kind to yourself. While your parents are busy stressing you out you will find that you forget everything. One night I left the keys in the door of my apartment after taking Shane out to go potty. (He listens.) When I got returned my mother (having jet lag and being wide awake) wanted to go out and PARTY! So, as I walked out the door with her the keys were still in the door. No big deal right? Wrong. The problem is that there is another door to the outside and without that key, you ain’t gettin in. So, after more wine and vodka we were walking home and it suddenly dawns on me, I have no keys! Luckily for me some really nice guy was walking by and called the police to help us. The whole entire Polizia Centrale and the whole entire Vigili del Fuoco (Fire Department) showed up at my apartment along with about 6 other gentlemen who happened to be driving by. So I now have about 15 Italians standing outside my door trying to figure out how to get my mother and I back in my apartment when a kid jumps up to the outside window and finds a key hidden in the sash. He let us in and we walk up to my apartment door and low and behold there are my damn keys. None of this would’ve been so bad if I hadn’t been freaking out and crying about the weird stalker I was having problems with prior to my mother’s arrival. I thought he stole my keys. Moral of this story is simple. Even though you will feel like drinking from the moment your parents arrive, Don’t. Go to yoga class instead.
The next incident occurred when I woke my poor mother up at 6AM to be on a 8AM train to Venice and managed to put us on the right train but on the wrong day! (I was one day early.) It’s truly embarrassing to get on a train and stare at the poor Indian family on vacation and try to explain to them that they are in your seat and then when you go and find the porter she has to explain to you that you are an idiot and need to check yourself. No, she did not say this but I could read her mind and the Indian family was burning a hole in the back of my head with their stares.
Rule number 282: DO NOT take your Parents on any sort of tour where they may have to hike!
I took my mother to Cinque Terra on a Florence For Fun tour that I thought she would enjoy. As you all know, I love Florence For Fun tours. I love going on their tours because they always have young people and great tour guides and everyone speaks English. I thought this would be fun for my Mom because she loves kids and has always been pretty active and doesn’t speak a word of Italian. I thought she could handle a little hiking and walking. I didn’t realize that there would be nothing little about it. The first 20 mins were spent walking down a narrow winding street to get to even more narrow, horribly uneven stairs that went straight down. This is another area where my mom didn’t listen to me. I told her bring good, comfortable walking shoes and to do a bit of walking a month or so before she arrived. This way she would have built up a little bit of muscle for Italian traveling, which is mostly on foot. I felt really bad for our tour guides but they were awesome as usual, and so so patient! The two guys helped my mom the whole way down until we reached the train station. They were great and once again I can’t help but say how very much I love Florence For Fun Tours! (Maybe I should ask if they can get an Over 65 excursion going??) Once we got to the bottom where the train was, everything was fine because we could take the train from town to town. We went straight to the fifth village and stayed there the remainder of the day enjoying cocktails, lunch and lemons.
My mother was a trooper on this trip though and I have to give her credit because not too many people actually travel at this age out of their comfort zone. She even told me once that she thought I was trying to kill her and that I was not mentioned in her will, so I should quit. I know things were not easy on her even when I tried to make them so. Not everything was stressful. We ate some great food and she still saw some beautiful sights. She was able to experience my life and that made me feel great. And if you saw my previous post, you know she was the bell of the ball everywhere we went. Men really do flock to my Mom. Everywhere we go. I’ve been here for 7 month’s and I still don;t get that kind of attention! It’s irritating. But what kind of family vacation would it be if we didn’t irritate one another?
** A quick side note… I spoke with my Mom yesterday and she told me she was proud of me and that she had never seen me so confident or happy. That, even though she missed me she was happy that I was pursuing my dreams… Damn that woman for making me cry like a baby!