Tag Archives: parenting

Growing Up

Over the weekend, Bridget left for a 6-day school trip to Barcelona.  It’s a seriously amazing trip and an incredible opportunity for her. 

But… (there’s always a but…)

All last week before the trip,  I would think about her leaving and feel a surge of panic and hysteria.  I could physically feel the fear rise up in my throat and choke me.  She was so excited and kept talking about the cooking classes they’d be taking and the tour of the chocolate museum and the FC Barcelona stadium.  And I would nod and agree and remind her to get recipes for the things she makes in cooking class.  And inside I would be shrieking that she is not old enough to get on a plane and fly to another country without me.

I think I managed to hide it.  But it took some serious effort on my part.

I love that she’s growing up into an adventurer.  I am so grateful for the unbelievable opportunities she has to travel and see new places and try new things.  I genuinely want her to go out into the world without fear and without needing me or Matt to lean on, to cling to. 

But man, it’s really hard for me not to cling to her.

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The Halfway Point

Tomorrow marks 18 months since we moved to England.  We’re here for another 18 months before we head back to America.  This is the halfway point. And still I sometimes can’t believe we’re even here and we made this happen.  I love living in England,I truly do.  I love that we did this big thing and we’ll always remember it and it changed us in so many good ways.

I even don’t mind the weather; I can deal with grey chilly winters with a great deal more tolerance and grace than I can handle humid, sticky summers with 95+ degree temps. 

We’ve already done so much in our first 18 months here, but we really do have even more left that we want to do.  I’m glad we’ve got another 18 months, but even with that time I doubt we’ll ever do everything on “the list”.  Mostly because the list grows faster than we can check items off of it.

It’s astounding to me to look back at the first few weeks and months we were here and realize how insanely overwhelmed I was.  I didn’t really comprehend it at the time, because when you’re really inundated, you just do what you have to do without processing it too much.  But then I read my journal or this blog and I can hear the notes of panic behind my voice back then.

Not anymore, though.  Now it’s just normal here. 

I’m used to the insanely narrow roads and the slightly different version of English.  I love the longer school days and the longer school year and the much longer school breaks.  I know that we must take advantage of sunny weather anytime we have it because it doesn’t happen all that often.

I know now that every pub in the country serves a Sunday roast ONLY on Sundays, really there are no other restaurant options that day.  That there’s always fish on Fridays.  That tea isn’t just the drink, but also a term for an early dinner.  That pudding means dessert of any type.

I know that sweaters are jumpers and sneakers are trainers and pants are trousers and underwear are pants.

I know that we’re all expected to just get on with things, regardless of the weather or the complications or the extenuating circumstances.  Stiff upper lip, keep calm and carry on, and all that.

I also know that my kids are amazingly adaptable and will rise to any challenge.  That they embrace whatever they’re doing and wherever they are with open arms and their whole hearts.  I know they can and will be fine anywhere they go, because I’ve seen them adapt and overcome and assimilate.

I know, too,  that Matt and I can get through difficult things with a reasonable amount of humor and cooperation.  We can navigate through really, really confusing times and we can fake it till we make it, and we always do it together.  I love that.

More than anything else, more than the amazing travel and the incredible schools, what I know and love is that we’re doing something that has forever changed us and will forever stay with us.  We are different today than we were when we got on that plane in August of 2015, and the things we’ve done and learned and experienced have shaped us into more well-rounded, adventurous, adaptable, happier, more open-minded people.  No matter where we go or what we do for the rest of our lives, these years in England will stay with us.

Here’s to another 18 months, and to all the adventures behind and ahead.

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We Are Immigrants

Matt was admonished last week by someone who told him that he shouldn’t talk to the kids about politics.  In my biased opinion, his response was perfect. 

He said that it is his most important job as a father to teach his children not WHAT to think, but HOW to think.  He said that if he doesn’t talk to them about politics and the state of the world now, when they’re young, he’s not equipping them to be thoughtful and responsible and engaged as adults.  He said that he must, as a good father, make sure they think critically, consider different view points, decide what THEY believe in, and then stand up for those beliefs.

God, I love that man.

We sat at dinner last week, on the day that Trump announced his Muslim ban, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, and we talked to the children.  We told them what people who support the ban think.  We told them what we think.  We asked what they thought.

The kids wanted more information.  They couldn’t really understand what the ban DOES, how it works.

So here’s how I explained it to them:

Right now, we are American citizens living in a different country.  Imagine if, while we were living in the UK, the British government decided that any American citizen was banned from coming in to England.  Now imagine if they passed that law while we had been on the way back from Germany.  When we got back to the airport in London, at the point where we always have to show our passports and have our fingerprints checked, instead of letting us pass to get our luggage and go home, they would have stopped us.  Some people might have been handcuffed.  Then imagine if they made us wait, in a room maybe together or maybe separated from each other, you guys in one place and Mommy and Daddy in another, with no information about why or what was happening.  Maybe for hours and hours.  And then they said we couldn’t go back to our house in England, couldn’t get our stuff, couldn’t go back to school.  That is what is happening.   

But, Gabe said, we didn’t do anything wrong.  That’s not fair.  Why would they say that just Americans can’t come back?

Why would they split the parents and the kids up?  The kids would be scared,  Quinn said.

What if it had just been Daddy who was on the trip for work? Owen wanted to know.  Would they let him come home if we were still here?

Bridget said, I don’t think that’s right.  They already said we could live here, they shouldn’t be able to take it back once we’re already here.

WHY do my children get this and there are grown adults who don’t?

You can say to me that the ban is an attempt to make America safer.  I will ask that you show me when a citizen of any country on the list has committed an act of terror in the U.S.  And I will ask you why you think other countries with Muslim-majority populations were omitted from the list. 

You can say that the vetting process needs to be stronger.  I will ask first, if you even know what the vetting process currently consists of.  I did not.  I researched it though.  It’s a process with more than 20 steps.  It can take two years to complete.  And the mere fact that no one who has gone through that process has committed an act of terror on U.S. soil since that process was put in place tells me that it is probably fairly effective.

You can say that radicalized terrorists will try to use the cover of refugee status to gain entry into the U.S.  I will again point out that no one who has gone through the vetting process has come to the U.S. and committed an act of terror.  And I will ask what you think is happening to the children we turn away and leave in refugee camps to live in horror.  They are not learning to love America; the opposite is happening and will continue to happen.  We are creating a new generation of our own enemies.

You can say that it will stop illegal immigrants from coming in to the U.S. I will ask you what about the green card holders who were detained, are they illegal?  What about the people who had already received visas, are they illegal?  What about the refugees who had been vetted and approved, then denied entry in the end, are they illegal?

I went through the visa process when we were moving to the UK.  It was confusing at best, and I am a college-educated, native English speaker.  So is my husband.  And still, Matt and I messed it up.  Twice.  It’s not clearly explained on the website or in the documentation.  I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to understand it in a language that is not your first language. 

What is happening in America right now is not good.  It is not representative of the qualities that America is most admired for, WAS most admired for, around the world.  It is not the America I was proud to defend as a soldier or the America I loved as a citizen.

And I can not, will not, should not pretend it’s not happening or that it’s okay.  Silence is approval.  This is not okay.

My children understand that.  I wish more people did.

Parenting Lasts

So much of parenting revolves around teaching children to do something for the first time — to walk, to talk, to use a spoon, to zip their coat, to pump the swing on their own, to swim. You spend years just teaching people how to do the things.  All the things.  Everything.

When you have multiple kids, you just keep teaching the same things over and over.  And there’s a lot of pressure on the baby.  He’s the last kid to learn to read.  Ride a bike.  Tie his shoes.  By the time you get to the fourth kid, sometimes it feels like you maybe just don’t have any patience left to teach a particular skill.  (Please, please, please are you kidding me I have to explain how to make the bunny ears and loop them together and pull them through again?!?!?  For real?!?! Can’t I just tie his shoes for him until he moves out instead?!?!)

Every new skill the baby learns is a victory, then.  But it’s coupled with a tiny heartbreak: they don’t need you to do the things for them anymore.  Check that off the list — I’ve taught four children to read.  My work here is done.  Let me go sob in the corner.

But of course, it’s not done.  Because even though they can all read and write and ride a bike, there are always new things to be learned and taught.  Just this morning I taught an 8-year old how to properly load a dishwasher, for example, so I guess my work isn’t completely finished.  Based on his performance, I think we’ll be reviewing that skill again a time or two.

And last weekend, I helped a 12-year old apply eyeliner.  Still a bit of work to do there, also.

Parenting, I’ve said before, is a series of heartbreaks.  It’s bittersweet to realize that your kids don’t need you to do something for them anymore; sad because you’re no longer the absolute center of their world, but so gratifying when you realize they’re becoming these amazing people who are fun and funny and capable and competent and talented and enjoyable to hang out with.

My baby is 6, my oldest is 12.  I have a few years of teaching left yet, and I’m grateful for them.  And I’m also grateful that they can all tie their own shoes.

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