The ancient ruins of Pompeii are praised as an educational experience. It offers a look into a thriving Roman civilization that was frozen in time after the devastating eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. On our visit to Pompeii our 8-year old daughter, Sydney, received a bit more education than we had hoped!
The ancient city of Pompeii is immense. You could easily spend a couple of days there and still not see everything. Since we were only there for one day we decided to make the most of it and see all the highlights and then whatever else we could fit in.
As we were wandering around the ruins we noticed on the map that we were near a brothel. Wanting to check another ruin off our list we strolled up the narrow street and entered a small, ancient building.
I had imagined a Roman brothel to be a large building but was completely shocked at seeing how small it was. Inside was a small room with 3 alcoves on the sides where the women worked their craft. Inside each of the alcoves was a small raised stone platform bed that was too small to even stretch out on.
In the first alcove was a stray dog taking a nap, or perhaps “working.” Sydney was enthralled that there was a dog inside this ancient building. As she gawked at the dog we looked up and noticed detailed frescoes on the upper walls in the main chamber. The frescoes depicted different methods of copulation and were definitely detailed and creative. I assumed this was some kind of “order by number” system similar to ordering a meal at a fast food restaurant. “Um, I think I will have the #3!”
After Sydney lost interest in the stray dog she focused her attention on what we were staring at, the frescoes. She looked a little puzzled and asked, “What is a brothel?”
Since we have never explained the details of the world’s oldest profession to Sydney and had hoped that we could make it as far as Bangkok before needing to, I replied in the typical parental way, “That sure was a cute dog!”
As we walked out of the brothel and headed towards the next set of ruins Sydney once again asked, “What is a brothel? Why won’t you tell me what a brothel is?”
Kerri and I both looked at each other and knew we had to somehow explain this to our daughter. As we stalled trying to figure out the best way to explain brothels and prostitutes to an 8-year old, we eventually just gave in and told her the truth outright.
“Well, some women will have sex with men for money. They are called prostitutes and work in brothels.”
Sydney was completely flabbergasted and a little embarrassed that her parents had just talked to her about people having sex and that some people would actually pay other people money for it.
We continued on about the legal and moral issues of prostitution around the world and throughout history, and hoped that she understood. But more than anything, we hoped we did not warp her mind!
Oh the joys, wonders, and mysteries of world travel, you never know what you might run into or what you might have to explain next 😀
Bangkok will be interesting!
Nah – she probably went right back to thinking about the dog. :o)
She absorbs everything like a sponge, which can be good and bad. But she loves animals and is constantly talking about them. Our little Dr. Doolittle.
What? You took Sydney to a Brothel? You crazy kids.
Of course! After we walked through Amsterdam’s Red Light District and Sydney didn’t even comment, we figured a 2000 year old brothel ruin couldn’t be that bad. 🙂
Geni Butterfield says
That sure is a cute dog!
The “Look, shiny!” distraction also works well. 🙂
Tucker Bradford says
When traveling the world with children, there is pretty much no chance of sheltering them. At least you got some history into the conversation 🙂
We have embraced the straight scoop with our kids too, and it turns out that they just take it all in stride. Now that they are in school for a while, I sometimes wonder if their worldliness is going to come out in the wrong context, but even if it does, I don’t think we’ll change our approach.
It’s hard to shelter kids from real life while traveling. But, that’s part of the fun and what makes it so educational for all of us!
I think kids are a lot more able to handle weird news like this than most people think. Besides, telling them about the world’s challenges is only going to be educational anyway. It may be awkward, but they probably don’t feel that way very much.
Probably the best way to learn is through real life experiences instead of reading about it in some sterile classroom. Actually, thinking back to school, I don’t ever remember reading about brothels in Roman times. Maybe if they added little details like that it would make school much more interesting…. 🙂
Renee - RambleCrunch says
Cute story, and I’m sure she’s absolutely fine. 🙂 My daughter’s 12, quite a bit older, but when we camped in the Bois de Bologne we would ride our bikes in to Paris along a route with tons of prostitutes. The girls worked conspicuously out of vans parked along the roadside, and businessmen would stop to or from work. I’d rib my daughter, “Good thing your dad works from home!” We all still joke about it. Ah, the life of a traveling kid… 🙂
When we were in Paris we went out to a large park to escape the city. We found that it was where lots of prostitutes worked and we kept reminding Sydney to not step on the used condoms around the area. Might be the same area. The joys of travel…