Bound for a Breakdown or Breakthrough?

Normally I would dread the prospect of my active 6 year old running nonstop circles around me, but this year I don’t have all the obligations that normally crowd my kids out of my day. No Parents Association, Church, or other clubs, classes and social responsibilities will keep me from being available to my family. Right?

So here we are, less than two weeks into our journey, residing in our second ‘home’ on-the-road and I find myself in a familiar space–overwhelmed. There are the more glamorous responsibilities of picking out restaurants for our party of 6+, mapping out places of interest that we must see, picking out shows, selecting which countries and continents to visit and during which times of year. And the more mundane such as acting as chauffeur, navigator, laundress, grocery shopper, house keeper and disciplinarian. Let’s face it, I had a lot of support in NYC. Wonderful people who are like family to us that helped cook, clean, ferry the kids around–sometimes in four different directions–and who also acted as surrogate parents at times.
I know this period will end and everyone will find their groove to make this year-on-the-road work for all of us. I keep telling myself that we are still in the initial stages where there are growing pains as we find out what it means to really depend on one another. Am I right or am I an overly optimistic fool?
Something must be working, though. I am already doing the dishes less often. I get sympathetic hugs from my 14 year old when she sees I am frustrated  and struggling and hugs are a vast improvement over another eye roll when I express feelings that don’t fit into that supermom box with 1950’s era June Cleaver roots. My 14-year-old would prefer, “Well darling Anna, you really should put your clothes in the laundry basket so they all get washed.” My usual response is, “Anna! No clothes in basket means no clean clothes for the next week!” And when it comes to her insatiable appetite for sweets, Anna might prefer to hear the sweet harmonious response, “I’m afraid you really shouldn’t have a third helping of chocolate mousse, dear,” over a more abrupt, “Are you kidding!?”
The goal is to have the entire family self sufficient–and happily so. It’s time to create a new family culture. One that brings us together in the kitchen to explore new ingredients, flavors and recipes. One that creates the opportunity to make all aspects of life pleasurable–from the glamorous to the mundane. I remember when I had to fold clothes as a child, I would make sure to be waiting at the dryer toward the end of the cycle. Reaching in and taking out armfuls of warm, fluffy towels and burying myself under them was one of my favorite sensations. I would lie there and feel my body absorb the warmth and smell the fresh clean scent before creating neat puffy squares bound for the linen closet. Will my children find their own simple pleasures amongst life’s many responsibilities ?
Right now when I ask for help in the kitchen I get, “I’m afraid of knifes,” and “I can’t cook on a hot surface with a flame.” And when laundry is mentioned there is an immediate deer-in-the-headlights response before everyone scatters like cockroaches and leaves me in the dust. Can you imagine just the sheer number of soiled socks generated by 7 people over the course of a few days, let alone a week? Sigh…give me a sign!
Stay tuned…

Redefining “Home”

Besides a roof over your head and a place to hang your hat, what does “home” mean?

This school year we won’t  have a “home.” No apartment or house that we regularly return to after being out and about at school or work.  We will likely have a roof over our heads for the majority of the year, but it will be ever changing as we move from city to city and cross the borders of many countries. Transitions are challenging for my 6 year old son, so I was expressing my concern about this the other day with a dear friend. I opened my Pandora’s box of fears.  I’m  not a good enough parent. We are doing the wrong thing pulling the kids out of school. It’s irresponsible and impulsive and will damage them by taking away their support systems. I said out loud that surely ‘Kurti’ would be irreparably damaged by the year his parents yanked him out of school and  traveled like gypsies. My friend, being the wise woman that she is, noted that getting up and going to school everyday was a huge transition with which he would not have to  deal this year. Instead, what he was going to get was the gift of being together with his family ALL DAY. Actually, ALL YEAR with his mom, dad and siblings. After all, isn’t the family supposed to be the most important support system for children?
I begin to imagine how comforting that will be for my young son to sustain our connection when normally he would be at school and we are physically separate. Wow. No calls from the nurse, teachers, or other parents. He would have a direct line to me all day, every day. I  felt my fears evaporate immediately as the lid slammed shut on my Pandora’s box. What became clear is that home is not just a building filled with furniture and walls painted sailor blue and bubblegum pink. Cliché as it may be, “Home” is where your heart is, and we will be traveling with all six of ours together this year.