I have traveled through Europe many times. I have done it alone, with friends, with my husband and now with my kids. It used to be about seeing museums and hitting as many sites as possible. Now, we traveler slower. We seek out parks and playgrounds. The kids manage to sniff out spots to get dirty and wet in every country.
These park stops have become the joy of my vacations. I never thought I would revel in sitting under a tree watching my girls play when there was so much to see. In these park stops, I have the chance to see European kids and families and I realize how very different we Americans and Canadians are with our kids. There is very little micro managing. The parents hang back, drink coffee in nearby cafes and just enjoy watching their kids. The kids, on the other hand, are free. Maggie observed that when they get hurt, the European kids, tend to really exaggerate. I told her just like football (soccer) players do…they learn by example. The parents don’t fuss even when the kids are whaling. They do the equivalent of “suck it up buttercup.” The kids run off and continue to play. The parks here are not as safe as at home. They have challenging and sometimes scaring equipment, but no one seems to worry. That is a real challenge for me, but I am learning.
No one seems in a rush. Parents are not on their phones. They are actually watching their kids from a distance and often enjoying the company of other parents and grandparents. Family is still vital and appreciated. They might be thinking about grocery shopping or chores, but you wouldn’t know it. They seem in the moment. Dads and moms are hanging together. It isn’t a spot, like many of my local parks in the US, where I only see moms and I only see them on their phones. These European parks made me realize I want to live like this. Enjoying the park, the sun and my family. The time will come when going to the park is no longer cool and until that day…I will try to live like the Europeans. Plus, they kiss a lot, not just their kids, but everyone, and I like that too.