We took a photo outside the gates of Disney World when our son Mllo was three months old. There, I joked. We can always tell him we don’t need to go since he’s already been.
We took advantage of the free flights one gets when your kid is a lap-baby. Milo learned to crawl in Montreal, went to the Metropolitan Opera for Julie Taymor’s adaptation of The Magic Flute for his first birthday, got strings of beads strung around his neck in New Orleans at 18 months, learned to walk on a Northern California beach as seals brayed in the background, learned to climb coconut trees at two and a half in the D.R.
We went to museums, saw the Rockettes’ Holiday show, attended art openings and fancy lunches, watched the Weekee Watchee mermaids kiss an underground window in front of our boy’s sleepy face.
Our parents and siblings thought we were crazy, pointing out how the kid would remember nothing from all this travel. We were having fun, we replied. It would all enter his brain somehow. And it felt better than sitting at home watching Teletubbies another time.
I traveled a lot as a wee one. My wife didn’t. By the time Milo was seven he’d been to Lisbon, Rome, Mexico, London, and 20 plus states. He’d seen old-style magic shows, symphonies, smoky-voiced Fado singers, and Toltec pole swingers twirling ground-ward by their heels. I made sure to combine our trips with deep research into great playgrounds, changings of the guard, fireworks, and whatever else looked fun to the kids in me and Fawn. We would take his friends on 20-playgrounds-in-two-days trips to New York City, with Arthur Avenue pizza and a stop in Chinatown for sustenance.
Yes, a backlash set in, and Milo didn’t want to go anywhere for several years. But now, at 14, he’s ripe for monthly mini-voyages, and one or two longer trips a year. We’re looking into going overseas for parts of high school so he can pick up other languages. He’s eyeing college overseas.
Did all the culture we exposed him to sink in? Not yet. But his palate’s gotten quite adventurous, and now he’s talked his friends into taking trips with us when we can all travel again.
In the long run, nurture does have a role. And memory does swallow all.
Furthermore, Milo’s told us emphatically that he’s not really the Disney sort.
Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.