Video Games and Ice Cream

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People have often remarked to my wife and me how well our kids do at traveling. I would like to think it’s because we’ve instilled in them the importance of being respectful, patient, kind, curious, and all that. But the fact is, kids (especially small kids like ours) don’t care even a tiny bit about history or culture.

Sure, they get to climb on old ruins like they did in Ephesus and Miletus, and climb down into an underground city in Cappadoccia. But for the most part, telling them that something is 1500 or 2000 years old briefly gets their attention and then it’s on to something else.

Still, the question is: how do we keep our kids from melting down and freaking out when we’re on a tour?

Bribery. Usually taking the forms of video games and ice cream.

There’s all kinds of parenting advice that appears to have been designed for children that were created under some impossibly ideal lab-like conditions where they do what they’re told and better behavior is merely a short timeout away. Or that getting them to try new foods is as simple as gentle prodding or the tried and true take-it-or-leave-it method.

These are not our kids.

Our kids are picky eaters. So picky that they skip lunch three or four times a week at their school; days when plain pasta (or rice in the case of my daughter) is not on the menu. They’re not allowed to bring their own lunch. Their only choice is what’s on the menu. Can you say “stubborn?” So when they arrive at home here around 4:30pm they’re tired and famished.

In Trabzon we managed to keep them alive on french fries, plain pasta, the small pancakes at the hotel’s breakfast buffet, ice cream, sour cherry juice, and American Children’s vitamins. Children’s vitamins in Turkey come in the form of syrup, which our kids will not drink. Gummies or Flintstone-style are not available here. We’ve had to buy vitamins through drugstore.com, ship them to family, who then bring them when they visit. We also bring along snacks on the trips: peanuts, dried mango, and almonds.

We recognize that if we can’t get the kids to appreciate even a sliver of what is important about something we’re seeing, they’re going to be bored. You can allow them to be bored for only so long before they take it out on you. Long bus rides from stop to stop, listening to a tour guide talk, is not an ideal way for a child to spend a day. So Henry plays his Nintendo 3DS and Meredith plays Minecraft or Where’s My Perry? on my wife’s iPad.

And thanks to these ever present ALGIDA ice cream bins in Turkey, we know that for the price of a few lira we can keep the kids happy for the time being. FYI, “mutluluğu paylaş” translates roughly as “Share your happiness.”

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Istanbul Mosaic Museum

Two weeks ago, on one of our children’s days off from school, we headed to Topkapi Palace. The plan was to see the royal jewels armory. When Stephanie and Henry had come in 2010, that room was closed for renovations.

Unfortunately, after dragging the kids all the way from our apartment to the entrance of the palace, we realized that the palace was closed, like it is on every Tuesday of every week. We had forgotten.

The kids, already cranky from being made to go somewhere they did not want to go, were then bribed with some ice cream. And their mood improved. That’s when I remembered that we had yet to visit the Mosaic Museum. It was something Stephanie and I have been wanting to see.

The Mosaic Museum is tucked away not far from the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. It’s located southwest of the Blue Mosque in a small market area with many shops selling scarves, jewelry, carpets, backgammon sets; all of the things you can buy in the Grand Bazaar but the prices are cheaper.

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We followed the signs to the museum, entered for free thanks to our Muzekart, and were allowed to marvel at some very old mosaics that were unearthed during excavations in that area of the city. They date from 450-550 AD.

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The floor mosaics are enormous.

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The kids, made happy by ice cream, found the mosaics to be exciting. Therefore, though I am not a licensed physician or nutritionist, I recommend ice cream to enhance the mood of children.

As a bonus, here are some photos of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. It was such a sunny day it would have been a shame not to take pictures.

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