Our sudden return to the States a couple of months ago set off a fierce family debate about visitation in the midst of the pandemic.
Posts from the ‘Family’ Category
Time has this uncanny tendency to accelerate rapidly at certain junctures only to slow to a barely perceptible crawl at others. Spring, which for us is peppered with important dates and milestones, always feels like it belongs in the former category. Our final spring in Chicago nine years ago rushed by at breakneck speed as we prepared for our lives to take a drastic turn. We hurriedly tied the knot, S finished graduate school, and D joined the Foreign Service all in the span of a few months.
“Papa, what are you doing? Is this your ‘puter? Why you always working?” Junebug asks. Apparently unsatisfied with the response, she returns a few minutes later and demands, “Put your foot in!” When she insists and gets Munchkin to join in, there is little recourse but to take a ten-minute break to indulge in one of her favorite games, a holdover from our Manila quarantine days.
Junebug hasn’t had any manner of luck as far as birthdays go. We were on the road for her first birthday following our departure from Rwanda, and were fortunate that our friends in Utah helped us mark the occasion with a small party. Her second birthday fell a few weeks after S had taken the kids to Manila, with D remaining in the States. With our belongings already packed out for the move from DC, we threw together a makeshift early birthday party for her in the park that was partially rained out. Munchkin was fortunate to mark his sixth birthday this year with a party with his classmates just before the pandemic hit, but Junebug’s birthday next month is likely to be a solitary affair.
Spring break over, Munchkin’s school has resumed virtual operations on the other side of the world. It’s all a bit surreal. Around midnight each day we receive the morning message and the day’s lesson plan. Like an inmate keeping track of her imprisonment by scrawling lines on the walls of her cell, Munchkin’s teacher includes a homeschool tracker on each slide deck. In the beginning, we also kept count, the tracker reflecting the mounting anxiety we felt with each passing day of Manila’s quarantine. We lost the habit shortly after returning to the States.
Each time a milestone passes, it offers a brief but pointed reminder of our mortality and the all-too rapid passage of time. We had two this month: the ninth anniversary of the day we snuck out on an extended lunch break to get married in a Chicago courthouse and our son’s sixth birthday.
The end of one year and the beginning of another tends to invite reflection. As Munchkin nears his sixth birthday and Junebug begins her second semester of preschool, we can’t help but marvel at how different our two kids are. Even as Junebug endeavors to follow in Munchkin’s every step, she has developed a personality so distinctly her own that oftentimes it feels that our kids are mirror twins, their characters polar opposites of each other.
Next week marks six months since S arrived in Manila with the kids. Junebug, whose second birthday we celebrated a couple of weeks early during our last weekend together in DC, is quickly approaching the midway point of her third year. Now that she is speaking up a storm, her personality has truly blossomed. It is a curious age, as she seems caught between holding onto her baby tendencies and striving to catch up to her older brother.
One of the touchstones for our parenting philosophy – or at least for balancing our wanderlust with our parental responsibilities – is a photo two friends, both of whom had recently given birth, shared before we had kids. In the picture, they are standing side by side in a wooded area, with huge smiles on their faces, their infants asleep in the carriers on their chests, and about half a dozen lemurs climbing all over them. The photograph was taken at Vakona reserve in Madagascar, which we subsequently visited.
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.