D’s mom, comparing life in America to the one she knew in the Soviet Union, once succinctly summarized the difference by pointing to a sign at a public beach, which enumerated prohibited behavior: “In America they tell you what you cannot do, and anything that is not explicitly forbidden is allowed. In the Soviet Union, it was the opposite: if it was not expressly permitted, then you couldn’t do it.”
Posts tagged ‘siblings’
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.
Excitement tends to be the most common emotion people ascribe to us when they hear that we’re headed to the Philippines for our next Foreign Service assignment. Nervousness comes in at a distant second. “You’re moving to Manila? That’s so exciting!” “Are you excited? You must be so excited!” We fielded similar queries from friends, relatives, and total strangers prior to departing for our first tour in Kenya, and again ahead of the move to Moldova, and also in the run-up to our assignment in Rwanda.
Self-help books, mindfulness blogs, and mental health articles abound with exhortations to live in the moment and advice on how to make the most of each day. Aside from the clichés of squeezing every drop of joy out of each unique experience we accumulate when serving overseas, being able to focus on the present while relentlessly planning for the future is a requisite skill for the Foreign Service. Considering how often we relocate, the temptation is always there to cast our sights toward the next assignment, the next move, or the next country – to envision the possibilities and continuously stress about the unknown. Without a firm grip on the present one can easily descend into madness.
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.
Time may fly when one is having fun, but it also refuses to stand still when life feels too busy to handle. The last month has rushed by in a blur or work, last-minute language study, hockey, concerts, friends, kids’ play dates, soccer practice, and ordinary humdrum days during which the mere act of getting the kids fed and to bed sapped our energy reserves completely. We had planned to put together a 100-day countdown post, but that marker passed weeks ago. We now have less than 75 days left Stateside before our next move.
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.