The best part of D’s Manila homecoming was the two weeks of leave he took upon arrival in the Philippines. Ordinarily, we try to maximize our vacation days for travel. In fact, this might be the first time during our nine years in the Foreign Service – other than when our kids were born – that either one of us took an extended period of time off and just stayed home.
Posts from the ‘Family’ Category
7:12p.m. Giggles and tears. Junebug, who has recently learned to use the potty, darts out of the bathroom in which she and Munchkin had just enclosed themselves. Her own pants around her ankles, she is clutching a bundle of clothes, which are soon revealed to be Munchkin’s. “Give me back my pants,” he whines from the bathroom doorway, undecided as to whether he should run after her or go back to the toilet. She scampers away and he gives chase, wresting away his shorts and underwear after a brief tussle that ends with Junebug crying at the injustice of having her scheme foiled. We watch helplessly – S because she is torn between trying to help Munchkin recover his clothing on the one hand and protecting Junebug on the other, and D because he is doubled over with laughter.
We are not yet at the point of measuring our own elderliness by our kids’ ages, but those days are not far off. Junebug reset the clock for us, so we can still think of ourselves as “young parents” for a few more years by virtue of having young children. Meanwhile Munchkin turned five last month – an age that straddles the little between early childhood and the self-sufficient realm of school-age big kids.
We only spent ten days away from our kids. It’s not much, but in the life of a toddler ten days is a lot. Junebug seemed a lot more grown up when we returned, and over the course of the subsequent weeks she has developed so many new mannerisms that we hardly recognize the girl we left at home with nana in mid-December at the start of our Southwest holiday road trip.
A friend of ours is fond of saying that there is no such thing as cold weather; rather, the problem lies in poor clothing choices. Junebug, for one, disagrees with this sentiment. It does not matter how warmly we dress her or how much we play up the fun to be had with fresh powdery snow. The last few months she got her first taste of a proper winter – with snow and temperatures in the teens during our Thanksgiving trip to Maine and a snowstorm in DC this weekend. To say that she did not enjoy her exposure to the frosty weather would be an understatement.
Munchkin’s rapid descent into superhero obsession took us a bit by surprise. We consciously limit his screen time at home, but parental controls are no match for playground fads. As soon as Munchkin entered pre-K in the fall, his fealty to Paw Patrol and P.J. Masks was overcome by an overwhelming interest in Batman, Superman, Spiderman, and the like. At the library, he would pick out simple comic books for beginner readers; superhero-themed clothing began to multiply in his wardrobe; and the Disney/Pixar films D would sometimes watch with him on the weekends gave way to comic book-inspired cartoons.
“You see? This is exactly what I meant when I said her spirit animal is a raccoon,” S said, nodding in the direction of Junebug, who had snagged an entire chicken drumstick before scampering to D. Content with her acquisition, Junebug sat perched on D’s lap, gripping the drumstick tight in her little fist, making content nom-nom noises, and happily wagging her head side-to-side while chewing through her mouthful of chicken.
For a while after Munchkin started speaking we endeavored to write down his amusing sayings. There were plenty of mangled words and off-the-wall pronouncements that were precocious in their seriousness. As his speech grew more advanced, we largely stopped keeping track of his verbal creations, contenting ourselves with enjoying them in the moment. Of late, we have begun once again to take note of Munchkin’s speech, though for far less pleasant of a reason.
Parenthood, or at least our experience of it to date, seems to be defined by two constant, contradictory mental states. On the one hand is anticipatory nostalgia, fueled by the realization not only that everything is a stage, but also that all good things come to an end way too quickly. On the flip side are the doldrums that accompany each particularly challenging phase, which always seem to last forever, and the usual batch of negative feelings one experiences when reality fails to match one’s expectations.
Growing up, there is no question that the winter holidays were our favorite: Hanukkah for S, New Year’s for D. Sweets, festive decorations, and lots of presents – it’s easy to win a kid’s heart over with these. Now that we have children of our own, we’ve come to appreciate other holidays a lot more. Any holiday that gives us a three-day weekend is to be celebrated, but the ones, like this past Veterans Day, when we get the day off from work while schools remain open feel particularly valuable. Of the holidays we miss being stateside the most, Thanksgiving tops the list: there is simply no substitute for family and home-cooked, traditional meals when one is serving overseas.