Wednesday Write-Up: Same Same but Different

This week has been one of quiet contemplative stress for me. On Saturday we are leaving Lisbon for Paris, France. We are taking Zoë to Disneyland Paris for her second birthday (one more Disney park off the list!) as a surprise. Yes, I know she probably won’t remember it, but she will see the pictures later and know that her parents were awesome and spoiled her rotten (right?!). Lisbon is so much like our home town that it has been easy to acclimate to being so far away from what we know and are used to. For this reason, among others, I am a bit sad to be leaving, but I really do feel that we need to explore Europe a bit more.

There are many similarities between Portugal and Sonoma County, California, such as the landscape, the weather, and the wine (although I have to say I like the wine here better, and only have to pay 2 Euros for a bottle—sorry Sonoma County). The biggest difference I have seen between Portugal and Sonoma County is the family friendliness.

Many of you parents out there may never have experienced this, but when I was living in America I was sometimes shunned from places because I was toting along a child. On any given day, I can peruse my Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest feed and I will see parents apologizing for bringing their children along with them, whether it be to a restaurant, or on a airplane flight (seriously… those people that made up candy bags for the whole plane apologizing for taking their babies on the plane thats viral on Pinterest…I just want to slap them…thanks for starting that trend lady).

I can’t really blame those parents for wanting to apologize though, because at the same time, there are people complaining about parents bringing their children to those places. It is a strange conundrum that American parents find themselves in. Everyone seems to love that you are having kids, but then once you have them you are supposed to hide them away, only letting them emerge from their room to go to an educational play date or a labeled child area, such as a park or playground. And if you decide to take your child everywhere with you, which I did, you had to be prepared for rolled eyes, sarcastic and rude remarks, and an overall feeling of being unwelcome whether your child was being a perfect angel or was throwing a full blown tantrum.

Being here in Portugal, I have had to deal with some post traumatic stress from my time raising Zoë in California. I am incredibly careful, to the point of paranoia, about Zoë making noise in a restaurant (heck, even taking her into a restaurant made me grind my teeth preparing myself for the looks) or running around the table while Chad and I finish our espresso when we finish a meal. When I would go grocery shopping, I would freak out that Zoë would grab something off the shelf, which I would then have to remove from her steel grip, causing a tantrum and I would have to leave the store red-faced and shamed.

What I have found in this lovely country, is that people love your child(ren) and want you to take them with you. More often than not, we will get frowns when walking into a restaurant, and as soon as they see our little curly haired cutie, their faces light up and the rest of the time we are there, they try to engage and entertain Zoë. She often leaves with a piece of candy or a lollipop, I guess it’s a good thing we didn’t stick to the “she will have no sugar until she is 2 years old” plan we had before she was born. Regardless, people seem to love children here and I have not had one eye roll or rude remark since being here. My parental PTSD is abating now with the therapy of family values in this wonderful country.

Something else that is different that goes along with the family friendliness here, is that the safety rules are a bit different from America. If someone was to give Zoë a piece of candy back home, I would tell her not to eat it, but to let me check it first. You can never be too safe when it comes to razor blade and drug laced candy back home. Here, in Lisbon, and the rest of Portugal for that matter, it seems a non-issue, everyone gives her candy, from the fruit vendor to the restaurant owner. It’s just what is done here, with no ill-will, but just to make your kid happy. I like this difference. This makes me feel that Zoë is safe and that I am able to keep her safe. The bad guys are not so prevalent here (I know that there are bad guys everywhere, but I seriously doubt someone will give her an LSD laced sticker here).

It will be interesting if we ever go back home to beautiful Northern California, how will I teach Zoë not to speak to ANY strangers, when here I tell her she should always respond with a hearty “Olá” when someone addresses her. You will have to tune in and see what happens with that, because, honestly, I have no idea how I will make the distinction to her as she grows older.

This culture has so many similarities to Sonoma County California, but still the differences are noticeable. These differences are why I love to travel…I want to see what the world holds for me, what different cultures deem as acceptable and as taboo. I crave this change of culture, scenery, and especially food (you knew I would mention food at some point right?!). More adventures to be had in the near future and more stories to tell you! Thank you all for reading!

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