One of my friends tipped me off to this series of portraits by Johan Bavman: they're of of Swedish dads, who have one of the most generous paternity leave policies in the world. Paternity leave runs for 480 days, 60 of which must be taken by the father if you don't want to forfeit the rest. That's crazy to think about! Josh had possibly the longest employer-provided paternity leave of any fathers we knew, and he was home only for four weeks after Aaron was born.
I love the photo above—the snotsucker is literally the worst part of little congested noses.
Hey hey! You know what's worse than being trapped in an apartment with a cranky toddler while it's pouring buckets outside? Being trapped in an apartment with a cranky toddler while it's pouring buckets outside in Istanbul.
I'm kind of kidding. But, honestly, Istanbul isn't exactly known for its wide variety of indoor museums, reliable and far-reaching public transportation, or sunny winters. Add this to the fact that Aaron isn't quite old enough for arts & crafts lessons, or some of the big indoor arcades and play areas you can find here. And I don't want to bring him to a movie because I'm not the worst person in the world.
Nevertheless, we've found some dependable options in the past year. Not all of these location suggestions are going to knock your socks off, but the places listed generally allow your kid to roam semi-freely, and won't be deathly boring for you.
THE ISTANBUL AQUARIUM
This is located a little bit of a drive away—near Ataturk airport, actually. Not a problem if you have a car, but isn't going to break the bank if you take a taxi there. It'll kill about 2-3 hours, maybe more if you have a coffee at their cafe. And even more if you decide to wander the attached mall, which comes with multiple dining options. Speaking of which . . .
What? I said not everything on the list was going to knock your socks off. Unfortunately, what Istanbul lacks in museums, it makes up for in... malls. (After all, remember this whole thing? Yeah...) It's not the greatest aspect of the city, but does save the day on a drizzly afternoon. Some of these malls, like Zorlu, have a little playpen in which kids can roam freely. Others, like Kanyon, are open air and therefore useless. There are also plenty of cafes in most malls here—normally, after running around, Aaron and I stop in one to share a drink and a slice of carrot cake. We like Akmerkez, Istinye, and Zorlu—but that's mostly due to geographic proximity over anything.
This opened several months ago in our neighborhood of Arnavutkoy, and it has been a lifesaver. It's run by a wonderful and friendly family who have arranged for an entire play area (with a ball pit, big buckets of toys, and a mini-slide) in the back of the shop. It's small, but it works. They charge a tiny fee of about 10 lira for an unlimited time there, and you can get a latte, cappuccino, or a slice of cakes brought to you while your toddler amuses himself. You can find directions on their website, linked above.
THE ISTANBUL MODERN
While this isn't a place your kid can roam freely, Aaron has done well on all our visits there—I think it's because all the bright colors and stimuli really preoccupy him. It only takes about an hour to wander through the exhibits, but there's also an attached cafe with a fantastic view overlooking the water that's somehow made even more beautiful on a particularly stormy day. I've shared some photos of the Istanbul Modern here and here.
We've just finished the most recent season of Homeland, which I thought was absolutely fantastic after a disappointing second and third season (the first I loved, though). I'll admit to being 100% committed to Carrie Mathison's cry face, so when Josh picked up Prisoners of War as an antidote to Homeland withdrawal I was a little skeptical, but now I'm completely invested!
(Just FYI: this is the Israeli show off of which Homeland is based.)
This is the premise, in short: two Israeli soldiers, kidnapped during a mission in Lebanon, are finally released after seventeen years in captivity. The show follows the two men's painful reintegration to society and their families—both of which, to some extent, have moved on without them. But it also recounts the subsequent covert investigation into their lives that's spearheaded by a military psychologist who's noticed certain discrepancies between the stories of their seventeen years in captivity. The show hints at the possibility that the two men have, in fact, been turned, but unlike the American show, it somehow feels less melodramatic. The tensest moments of the show haven't been revelations about national security, double identities, etc., but the everyday trials of life after captivity, which has felt particularly poignant.