Wednesday, January 11, 2012

How to be a Europhile Without Leaving Home

After we had our first child, my husband and I were determined that parenting would not bring a swift end to our wanderlust.  Our firstborn turned out to be a natural world traveler.  He had no trouble adjusting to time zone changes or sleeping in a bed that wasn't his own, and he enjoyed the stimulation of new people and places.  At age 1, we took him to Spain, Italy and France.  Then our second son came along, and we forged through the U.K. and Norway with both boys, then ages 1 and 3.  Most recently, we completed a two-week road trip starting in France, winding through the Swiss Alps, and ending in Italy, with three boys (ages 2, 4 and 6) in tow. 

Now that our fourth son has arrived, however, we are finally starting to think twice before crossing the Atlantic with the entire brood.  As we consider where to venture this summer, we find ourselves with the predicament of being diehard Europhiles who also have four young children.  In other words, we may actually be landlocked!  

What's an enterprising mother to do?  I have brainstormed ten simple ways a family like ours can enjoy the experience of the European vacation without ever leaving the house.  Just guess how long this family will last before checking airfares to Paris. 

1.  Move the kitchen table out to the front porch, and you now have your own open air cafe!  Make sure all meals are served in bite-sized portions and then demand $8 from each child for a glass of water.

2. Require your children to speak only in a British accent, because let's admit it... everything sounds better that way.

3. Park the big honkin' minivan at the grandparents' house for a week, and figure out how to cram two adults and four children into a Prius.

4. Always keep a camera strapped around your neck, and take photos of every corner and nook of your house.  It doesn't really matter where you point your camera... remember, this is make-believe Europe where every vista has an interesting architectural element or detail that you must capture on film!

5. Charge each member of the family the equivalent of 1 Euro to use the toilet.  But make sure that 1 Euro includes some extras like breath mints next to the sink.

6. Spray-paint "Look Left" and "Look Right" along the sidewalks of your neighborhood.  And inside your house, place a few helpful signs that say "Way Out" and my personal favorite, "Mind the Gap." 

7. Serve all beverages, including milk, at room temperature.

8. Inform your children that every day in the afternoon, you will observe a siesta during which time all services normally provided by Mom will no longer be available.

9. Every time a member of the family walks through the front door, demand to be paid a "house congestion charge."

10. When your children ask you for anything, shake your head and mutter in your snootiest French accent, "Sacre bleu, les Americanes!"