Innocents Abroad

Family togetherness takes on a new meaning when you take the kids to Europe.

Family togetherness takes on a new meaning when you take the kids to Europe.

I haven’t traveled much with my children. The last brief flight we took within the state started pleasantly enough. No one threw up on take-off.

However, shortly after the flight attendant served the Seven-Up, my three-year-old announced in a voice surely heard at ground control, “I gotta do-do.” No time for a lecture on what we should have done before we left home. Knowing that little brother would scream throughout the bathroom visit if we entrusted him to the Pucci-printed attendant, all three of us stumbled to the cubicle at the rear. Once the door was closed, no easy feat with three of us, the sign overhead began flashing “Return to cabin-Fasten seat belts,” and the captain mumbled something about turbulence. While baby brother sorted through the trash and unrolled toilet paper, my barebottomed three-year-old lurching on his throne exclaimed, “Hey Mom, this is neat! Let’s just stay in this little room until we get to Corpus Christi.”

My children’s fascination with bathrooms is only one of the reasons I am reluctant to dream of a family trip to Europe. Imagine fellow travelers’ dismay when my children commandeer the bathroom for the entire eight hours of trans-Atlantic flight or my dismay when they discover the toilets on Eurail trains in Italy.

Another aspect of traveling with children that causes me to wince is the dining out. Although my boys’ skill with fork and spoon is occasionally demonstrated on such things as fried chicken and spareribs—cereal, applesauce, scrambled eggs, pancakes with syrup and noodle soup are invariably attacked with fists. Any food chewed by mistake (i.e., anything green or remotely nutritional) is blecched into the hand and placed on my plate. The younger, untoilet-trained one coordinates his incontinence with meal time and consequently completes his meal standing in his high chair. If company is present or if we have foolishly chosen to dine in a quiet restaurant, the three-year-old sparks the conversation with show-stoppers like “Does Santa Claus have a penis?” The lulls between such queries are filled with an innate and unconscious motorcycle-jack-hammer noise ably produced by both boys. (Women’s Lib be hanged, I’ve never met a girl who could duplicate this sound.) The noise level isn’t high; it just effectively prohibits adult conversation, impairs digestion and assures a continual fine spraying of food from both mouths. Tour d’Argent? Never!

My reluctance to take the kids undoubtedly also stems from the memory of our first and only trip to Europe the summer we married. Aside from the trip over on the S.S. France, it was no luxury tour. Armed with Frommer and student I.D. cards, we spent many a night in seedy pensiones with underwear drip-drying over our heads. Sometimes my unnecessary luggage and

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