Herding kids through Paris wasn’t easy. Because there is just so much to see when you’re only four feet high. They’d step into a street to watch a leaf floating in a puddle, oblivious to the bus lumbering towards them. They’d dance, run or wrestle on the sidewalks, bumping into bystanders. They’d see something intriguing – a fountain, or merry-go-round — and lost in the thrill of discovery, dash towards it, oblivious that their parents were walking in the opposite direction.
Aaron and I have heard one statement continuously since we’ve had three kids, only two years apart: Wow — you have your hands full! In Paris, nothing was truer. Our arms would ache at the end of the day after being yanked and pulled by little people who did not want to hold hands!
Yet, whenever we led them into a cathedral, something happened. These normally rambunctious, energetic, at times whinny kids became blissfully still, and amazingly quiet.
You’d think that the last place I’d take them into would be a place of worship. But I noticed something the first time I tempted fate and lead them into Notre Dame. Once inside, their behavior changed.
We told them the rules before we entered: whisper and walk only. This is a special place. If you don’t behave, they’ll kick you out. I held my breath, waiting for their normal peals of laughter or frustration to bounce about. But it never happened.
At first I thought this experience was a fluke. But at the second cathedral we visited, we saw the same change in behavior. While walking from Luxembourg Gardens to the Metro station on our way home, we stumbled upon St. Sulpice Cathedral.
Initially the kids whined about going in; they were understandably tired after a long day of sightseeing. But once we walked in, their transformation into quiet solemn kids took place. They sat in the chairs and watched a man mop the floors, while I took pictures and Aaron studied the architecture. It was the perfect afternoon respite before we journeyed home to our apartment.
It happened a third time, when I saw a cathedral while walking to Palace Vosage, and spur-of-the- moment asked Aaron if he wanted to go in. The kids hemmed and hawed, until we entered. While Chase and Ada found a chair and quietly sat, Ethan held my hand as we walked up the central aisle together, whispering about the statues in the sky.
Each time we crossed one of these sacred thresholds, their whining or yelling stopped. They didn’t run or dance – they walked. They morphed from animals into quiet, respectful little people.
Once the others were finally captured in a quiet daze, I could also absorb some serenity, take a few deep breaths, and let go of the stress and anxiety of traveling.
It was during these respites that I remembered why I chose to travel to Paris with my kids, and why I will travel with them as much as possible in the future: to show them the magnificent beauty that exists in their world.
I’m not a religious person. I visit cathedrals because of their historical relevance, my passion for grand architecture, and to enjoy their peaceful ambiance. I don’t believe it was the hand-of-God that led my kids into admirable behavior. I believe they were as captivated and awestruck as I was to be surrounded by massive stone arches and dazzling stained glass windows. Plus, they just loved all those little chairs to sit on.
Once we reentered Parisian street life, their exuberant and rebellious behavior returned. But with a renewed sense of peace, I transformed from the nagging parent into someone who could appreciate the hilarity of children tap dancing down a city street.
For more travel photos, go to Delicious Baby.