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It's not all cake, I promise.
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Well, I missed the boat on Tuesday and then on Thursday and on all the other days this week, so, hello! It’s Friday. It’s Friday! We made it. Or did we? When parenting, the weekends often feel like the heavier lift, am I right?
We are off to London this weekend (God, that sounds so unbelievably obnoxious, please forgive), which I am so very much looking forward to and also fearing a little? How will we all agree on activities and schedules and the volume of walking and time spent in museums and where to eat and how much to spend and how many books is too many books and will anyone actually sleep and what kind of moods will that have us in? You know: family life.
Some of my reticence in coming back here is that much of what’s been going on for our little family abroad has to do with stuff I no longer feel all that great sharing widely. Like, how does a 9-year-old adapt to life far away from everything she knows? And how magical and moving it is to see her do it, and also how painful when it all just feels so overwhelming? And how do two parents in a teeny tiny space, in a too-small bed with a miniature kitchen and bathroom, navigate it all when it’s foreign for us, too? And how do we explain that seven months is long but it’s also sort of…nothing? (One month already down…) That we will be back in no time and we want to lean into the thrill and not the difficulty?
Truly it’s been wonderful, but I fear that my last post made it all seem all-too shiny and ideal and I never want to give the impression that all our troubles have been wiped away by cake and walking and good boots. We’ve been asking the kid more and more questions about how her two schools compare, in some ways just for our own curiosity (like: how genuinely bad is her school back home!?) but from my end at least, it’s mostly to try to get a little closer to what she’s really feeling, which is more and more shrouded in mystery.
We keep saying things to her like, sometimes you go somewhere new and you just feel more like yourself. Do you feel that here? She sort of shrugs, but she seems to have made friends much faster at this school. What do you like more? Less? Is it easier or harder to make friends? Are the kids different? What about the teachers? A preteen is not a 6 year old and there’s a lot we just don’t know. (We know A LOT about the one teacher she despises.) I feel like I am forever trying to read between the lines, even though I feel like I often don’t even have access to…the lines themselves?
I keep coming back to when she started Kindergarten at 14 months in Vienna and I had to send her off to school in a language I barely understood. I had to accept that there was going to be a whole world I would never enter or fully get, no matter how good my German became (it never got very good). This feels oddly similar. Off she goes in the morning in her adorable grey and purple uniform, skirt ironed and hair pulled back in the requisite black elastic, and the only information we get at the end of the day is what she’s willing to share. When she was a toddler, she couldn’t share much — and I couldn’t gather much from the teachers, see aforementioned language barrier — but I could deduce, from her moods, how it had all gone (brilliantly). Now, I’m not so sure.
All of this has made me think very, very little about what my experience of all this has been. Call me an overprotective mother — a Jewish mother? mother of an only? a woman? — but my own needs and feelings and fulfilment have been something I’ve spent very little time considering. Until my back started to get a little troublesome and I thought: oh, hi, there you are, the person independent of this family unit, what do you need? How are you doing? I’d forgotten about myself entirely.
I found myself an acupuncturist (wish me luck, she seems lovely from the internet?!) and I started to think a little more deeply about how I was doing and I found that while I am loving this — the stretches of time I have to think and write and walk and be is like nothing I’ve had since before motherhood, it is the gift of all gifts and I would never ever give it back, I am soaking it all up with gusto — I am also missing fundamental things: friends, family, my bed, my bathtub, my kitchen, baking and my books, lots of people around my dining room table. Unlike a kid, and after so many of these kinds of adventures, I can hold both more easily at once, the excitement and the homesickness, the teeny apartment and the glory of space, and know that these feelings will shift and shift and shift and then we will be home, wherever that turns out to be, and longing — surely always longing — for Cambridge.
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