The plan was to have the summer of our lives. A literal trip around the world...
The plan was to have the summer of our lives. A literal trip around the world. 2+ weeks in Massachusetts, 2+ weeks in North Carolina and 3+ weeks London. How dreamy. Seeing the world, enjoying family, taking the time to be present and soak up my boys.
Cut to me running through the Paris Airport at midnight a few days ago, holding a half-asleep Chase and yelling at Anders to run faster as we dashed to make our connection after a delayed flight. “If you want to see your Dada - RUN!” I yelled at him with tears streaming down my face. I was running to Steve too. I needed Steve. I cut our trip short by 2 weeks to get home. I quit. Cut rope. Bailed out. I was running to my happiness again.
The summer of our lives, well, it wasn’t what I imagined.
The first two weeks were really great. They were what we knew. A vacation with Steve. Time for our family to be together. Good family outings, tucking in our boys and then spending time one-on-one. We had done this trip for years and it felt good. Once Steve was asleep, I would sneak out my phone and spend time going through the pics of the day feeling so grateful for our lives. All was awesome. I was living my dream.
Then we headed to Boston and said goodbye to Steve. And from there it started to crumble. Here is what I learned:
Space - I never realized how important it is to have your own space. A place where you control the energy. You decide if the music is on or off. You decide whether it is quiet time or crazy time. You decide when naps are happening and what time is bed time. You have your toys, your room and a place for you to hang your things. I thought all we needed was each other. I thought stuff was just stuff. I was wrong.
Traveling Redefined - I’m still coming to terms with what is like to travel with kids. Playgrounds, kids museums and animated movies don’t move my soul the way long dinners, live music and window-shopping down beautiful streets do. Obvious, but still hard. And when you visit the Natural History Museum, it is about trying your damnedest not to lose your kids while your eyes dart back and forth between them, pulling out snacks and tricks and begging them to not pour their lemonade on the floor (which they do anyway and then take off their shoes to splash through it just to see how it feels.). They say it is not a vacation, it is a trip. It is.
Always On - When you are parenting on your own, it never stops. Ever. As a working mom that is transitioning into a expat mom, I treasure nap time and the moments of quiet after bedtime. I didn’t have those. Naps were done on the road and the boys insisted I lay with them until they were asleep in each new room because they were scared (which I gave into because I felt guilty.) This left me groggily moving into my bed at all hours of the night. I stopped posting on social media because I never had the time to and it felt so inauthentic to post a happy pic when I was feeling everything but. I was starting to understand why rockstars cancel tour dates because of "exhaustion."
Community - I am so grateful for my family. I love them. They are wonderful. They opened their doors, their refrigerators and their hearts to us. They did everything right. They tried their damndest to make the experience amazing. The cousins gobbled up our boys, my mom filled her house with crafts and my sister with the best/sweetest newborn twins was the most blissed I have ever seen her. She gave ME support when it should have been vice versa. But while I was with our family, I wasn’t with our friends. Without having friends to laugh with, talk everything through with, friends in the same stage of life that get it - I found myself alone in my room crying night after night. I cried more in the last few weeks then I have in years. I felt alone and exhausted. Even my sweet Lobster who welcomed me back with love, had found loyalty with his new family heading to their room each night. So bittersweet.
Judgement - This is on me, but I hate having people watch me parent. I love short trips, our boys are lovely and we head home to our private space. But when you live with people for over a week they see it all. They see the tantrums and melt downs. They see the boys hitting each other, testing limits and not listening. And I feel like they watch how I react. This trip, with all of its transitions was so hard on them, especially Anders. He was not the kid I know. I asked a lot of him: jet lag, camp in new places, no friends, no toys, no naps, going out to eat in restaurants night after night. He was not the best version of himself. Which resulted in hard moments, crapy bedtime routines and me being totally overwhelmed, while feeling judged.
Routine - Every day for our boys was different. Every. Day. Different beds and different foods and different timezones. One night in London, I was pushing Anders in a stroller to a restaurant and he fell asleep. I woke him up at the table to eat his dinner and he completely lost it. He was in a state of half awake/half asleep and he went from whining to full on insanity in a minute. I removed him from the restaurant to a space across the street where he went crazy flailing and screaming at the top of his lungs on this busy London street. An old man smoking outside at the pub next door started yelling at us. He was yelling at me to “HIT HIM. HE IS GOING TO WIND UP IN JAIL WHEN HE IS OLDER, UNLESS YOU KNOCK SOME SENSE INTO HIM.” I ignored him trying to calm Anders down. When I looked up again he was standing next to us and grabbing Anders' arm, yelling at him. I screamed at him to “LET GO OF MY SON!” When he didn’t I started howling for “HELP!!!!!!!!!” Luckily some other men came running, pulled him off of us and Anders then relaxed. I knew in that moment that what I was doing to him, to us, was just unfair.
My Partner - Damn how I missed Steve. He is my North Star. My partner on this parenting journey. The one that reminds me that all of this is fine, our babies are perfect the way they are and we are in this together. The way the timezones worked, and because I was constantly with the boys, I never had a moment to really connect with him. It wrecked me. So as I was begging the boys not to wake up the twins one night as they threw wooden spoons (make-shift toys) at each other, I left them to their own devices, called Air France, forked over $1000 and booked a flight home. Home to our own space. Our community. A place without judgement, filled with our own routine and Steve.
Oh and we made our connection. Our luggage didn’t. But that was just fine cause Steve was at the airport to pick us up and carry all three of us HOME.