Traveling kids welcomed in Italy, not U.S.

As a mother of five, including twins, I can vouch for the joy of travel [“Is Travel, Like Youth, Wasted on the Young? She Thinks Not,” Kids on Board, Jan. 4].

We have traveled all over the United States and in Europe. We took all five children, ages 1 to 13, and my in-laws to Italy for three weeks last summer. As Mary McNamara noted in her column, Italy is very child friendly.

I experienced more patience and kindness in Italy than I have in the U.S. Not a day passed without a compliment on my children’s good behavior. How refreshing it was to have a restaurant owner pleased to see us and the patrons wave and smile at my kids. Hotel proprietors welcomed us and inquired after each day’s adventure and recommended new ones for the next.

In contrast, in my travels in the U.S., I am constantly met with disdain for having more than one child and for taking them on a vacation in public. People glare and whisper when we enter a restaurant or board a plane, even before we have been seated. We are always amused when people who had first glared at us walk by after their meal or plane trip and say, “It wasn’t so bad to sit by you.”


Silly me. I thought I was teaching my kids how to behave in public. Instead I have to explain the miserable and intolerant behavior of those around us. The true ugly Americans are the ones right down the street, who have no patience for families and who seem to think that every restaurant and plane should be quiet for their benefit. That is delusional. Maybe they should stay home.

Are my children perfectly behaved? Not by a long shot. But should I keep them home and, when they’re 30, hope they will do well in public? No, I’d rather go out and enjoy all there is to see with them.

I will never run out of people to use as examples to explain to my children why patience is a virtue and intolerance is not.

Samantha Sheppard

Rancho Santa Margarita