Ancient Greece: The Parents' Choice

By Cindy Loose
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 16, 2004

Here lie the remains of the Temple of Aphrodite, where Greeks once paid homage to the goddess of love by romping with "sacred" prostitutes, male and female.

It outraged the Apostle Paul, who spent 18 months here encouraging the Christians and condemning the sinners, writing so many letters to the citizenry that they take up two books of the New Testament -- Corinthians I and II.

By Greek standards, that's modern history. Earlier still by 600 years or so, Corinth was one of ancient Greece's wealthiest cities, the gateway to the Peloponnesian area famed by two long-running wars. According to legend, it was here that Zeus condemned Sisyphus, the king of Corinth, to spend his life rolling a boulder up a mountain.

But we spend our limited time in Corinth choosing colorful barrettes and ponytail holders, and having lunch.

This, after all, is a family trip, and concessions must be made to the 11-year-old in our party. We've just come from ruins, and are on our way to more ruins, and if the kid needs a break from history, she needs a break.

We are testing whether a family trip centered on the interests of adults can survive without revolt or meltdowns; no need to push the limits.

My husband and I began taking our daughter around the world well before she could walk -- but until now, we've dedicated major chunks of time to her entertainment. All trips have involved compromise: Be quiet while we're in the museum and then we can go feed the ducks, or visit the amusement park, or whatever, depending on her age. All previous trips have involved parental swapping: You watch Maddie while I visit the cathedrals; I'll take her swimming while you see a show.

This time, we've planned nothing but togetherness tours of ancient ruins and museums in Athens, the Peloponnesian peninsula and Delphi, home of the oracle of Apollo. So what if we miss the bema in Corinth where Roman rulers used to issue edicts?

Still, I feel a little negligent, and while in Corinth, insist that Maddie listen while I read aloud about how Nero brought 6,000 Jewish slaves here to dig a giant shipping canal. But we don't take the time to look for the remains of that failed effort, or visit the 290-foot-deep canal accomplished in the late 19th century.

Children, you see, are a wonderful excuse to skip or skimp on some of your itinerary's "must-sees."

If it's really you who needs the break but you don't want to appear to be a Philistine, blame it on the child.

Lessons Before Leaving

A friend prepares elaborate but kid-friendly history and culture lessons for every family trip. I plan to emulate that. I gather books and announce that I'll be reading aloud Greek myths before bed each night until the trip.

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