Written By: Lana Dalley- We’ve travelled a lot with our kids and I’ve learned that, when on a family trip, it’s best to expect a 25% joy / 75% misery ratio . . . on the good days. On the bad days, you’re likely to be running a joy deficit. Because here’s the thing: kids don’t know how to travel, and we’re the ones that have to teach them how to be good travelers. So, instead of lounging in cafes and leisurely touring museums, we spend most of our day saying things like “Ohmigod. Don’t put your mouth on the back of the Métro seat” and “DO NOT play in that puddle next to the Métro wall. That is not rain. It doesn’t rain inside a Métro stop. No, I’m not lying to you. It really doesn’t rain in the Métro stop.” Today, for example, Sawyer got very frustrated with me because I wouldn’t buy her a piece of this candy:
When I tried to (delicately) explain that this wasn’t, in fact, candy, she loudly said “You’re lying because you never want me to have fun.” And I was, like, “Yep. That’s exactly it. You’ve got me figured out.”
See, when you have four kids, you can always count on someone, at nearly every moment in the day, to be mad/sad/hungry/tired/having an existential crisis/etc… In our family, when one kid is upset, the other ones like to really turn on the “I’m the good one” behavior which is honestly just as annoying as the kid doing the Linda Blair impression in the corner of the room. It’s exhausting.
This trip has been no exception. While there have been some truly wonderful moments, there have also been many frustrating ones. Take eating, for example.
You see, Tristan, Eli, and I have been really looking forward to eating in Paris. The other kids . . . well, not so much.
Finley, Sawyer, and Dash all have quite limited food preferences. Before we left California, Finley insisted that she was going to try lots of new things in Paris and have a good attitude about it. Sawyer and Dash made no such promises. (When we asked Dash what he wanted to eat in Paris, he said “My eat DINOS! ROAR!” And we thought, “well, sounds like he’s up for new and interesting foods!” Which, on reflection, may have been a tad optimistic).
On our first night here, we didn’t get to our apartment until about 4pm. Everyone was super tired after our red-eye flight, so we sent Tristan to the Fran-Prix grocery downstairs to buy some snacks for dinner. The result was delightful and everyone was pleased (except Dashiell, who was too tired to eat):
When I took this picture, I was feeling quite smug about my parenting, like “look at my kids being all cultured and shit. We are obviously, like, the crushing this parenting thing.” My self-satisfaction continued the next morning, when Tristan bought us a variety of delicious bread and pastry from the bakery downstairs (Au Bec Sucre)–pain au chocolate, pain au pistache et chocolate, croissants, and a baguette:
The kids LOVED all of it and ate like total champs (except Dashiell, who was still too tired to eat). Two successful French meals in a row, and I was feeling all:
After breakfast, we made our way to the Marais so I could meet with CEA, our study abroad partners in Paris. My meeting ended around 1pm, so we were all starving and my CEA colleague recommended a nearby bistro. Tristan and I had French Onion soup and salad (delicious!); Eli and Finley ordered sandwiches and frites (fries); Sawyer ordered a sugar crepe; Dashiell was sleeping, and so didn’t eat. When ordering their sandwiches, Eli and Finley went full-on SoCal: “I’d like turkey, but no mushrooms” “Can I get the dressing on the side” etc, etc… Neither of them ate much, which was mildly annoying but, bolstered by our recent successes, I wasn’t discouraged.
From here, we walked across town, through the Louvre and the Jardin de Tuileries, past the Place de la Concorde to the Champs-Elysees Christmas markets. While walking through the Tuilieries, we stopped to get coffee and hot chocolate:
You’ll notice that neither girl is actually drinking their hot chocolate here. At this stage, it was “too hot!” Once it cooled down, the girls insisted it was “too chocolately.” That’s right, hot chocolate that is too chocolately. Makes perfect sense, no? Determined to make the best of the situation, Tristan and I combined the hot chocolate with our coffee; me while trying to blend in, Tristan while wearing his Omaha North hat:
We concluded our day with another uneventful meal in our flat: roasted chicken and gratin potatoes from our local boucherie, haricot verts from our local veg market, cheese from our fromagerie and bread from our boulangerie. One of things we love most about being here is being able to shop at local, specialized shops (we have a boulangerie, boucherie, fromegerie, and fleuriste on our block). The meal was fantastic, but the three little kids refused to touch anything but the bread. And, Dash refused to eat anything at all; when we asked him to come to the table, he would shout “NO! My not eat dinner, ANY. MORE!”
The following day was Christmas Eve, and we spent the day exploring our new neighborhood. For lunch, we stopped at our local brasserie, Au Tramway. We can see the outside of the restaurant from our balcony, so we’d been curious about it. Tristan and I ordered oysters and a fromage/charcuterie plate, Dash ordered fries, and the other kids all ate sugar crepes:
The food was delicious, and everyone was pleased. Of course, the kids had basically eaten nothing refined sugar and carbohydrates for the last forty-eight hours, but they were happy so we didn’t rock the boat by suggesting vegetables.
Before leaving California, we made reservations for a prix fixe Christmas eve meal at Chamarré Montmartre. Eli, Tristan, and I would have the adult meal; Finley and Sawyer would have the kids meal; and Dash would eat bread. Finley and Sawyer were completely unimpressed with their meals, and Dash just kept asking the waiter for “mac cheese and hog dogs.” We told the girls they had to try one bite of each course and they complied. Their efforts looked something like this:
I told Finley that, when trying the food, I wanted her to imagine she was at one of her friend’s houses, eating food made by her friend’s parents. “You wouldn’t make that face if you were eating at Edyn’s house, would you?” I said. “No,” she responded,”because Edyn’s mom doesn’t make disgusting food.” Turning to Tristan, I responded:
Since that fateful meal, the kids have gotten a little more cooperative about food, and I think we’ve dialed back our expectations a bit. Finley tried Indian food in London and, back in Paris, she ate the better part of a steak that was on the rare side of medium rare. During our trip to London, Dashiell finally started eating again; he was persuaded by two delicious home-cooked meals by our dear friends. And, we recently found a meal everyone could agree on at L’as du Fallafel in the Marais:
Here’s hoping we can find more!