Home leave just plain bites. In so many different ways. This really wasn't what I was going to write about this week, but I bet there are a number of fellow FS and expat families that are feeling my pain, especially now with the storm-formerly-known-as-Hurricane-Emily wreaking havoc on any cross-Atlantic travel.
I admit: 24/7 kid-duty is tiring. Awesome, and spectacular but also draining and exhausting and a little bit irritating. Am I supposed to admit that? Probably just broke some sort of parenting rule, but this is a whiny whinge so ... there you go. I am holding strong to my belief that kids don't need tv to be entertained, but we've all been together now for 6+ solid weeks while hubby has had trainings and consultation days interspersed. We've shopped together. We've dined together. We've swam together. We've walked together. We've whined about summertime homework together. We've packed out together. We've dragged entirely too many suitcases through entirely too many cities together. We've done pretty much everything together, the boys and I, and I have to say I really miss summer camp. I miss dropping my kids off with reliable and trust-worthy caretakers, and miss just being able to sit and take a deep breath and be for 5 minutes. But this is home leave and this is how it goes. The stay-at-home parent gets the good stuff (i.e. the kids' stuff), and the worker bee parent gets to go and be with the big people. (It's not always clear to me which of those tasks is the shorter straw.) Both roles are challenging, and both are rewarding, in completely different ways.
I know that being with the kids 24/7 also offers a good deal of drama. Sibling rivalry can and does rear it's ugly head, as does sheer brattiness. The kids are dealing with a lot: everything they really remember as 'home' is changing. New house, new friends, new school. New car, new seating arrangement, new bedrooms. New yard, new work schedule. New fruit and veg options, new household helpers, new pool. New weekend activities, new sport options, new weather pattern. New country, new language, new driving pattern. Literally, the only things that are the same will be that we will be the 5 of us together, and we will be on the same continent as before, though much farther inland and to the south. So. Of course they are having some angst. I also know they pick up a lot of their attitude -- good and bad -- from me and their dad, and while we both do try really hard to keep a positive outlook, sometimes it does get the better of us. This feeling of being completely and totally unsettled, literally and figuratively.
This has been a Home Leave for the record book. Grandpa's death, the always-at-least-one-Urgent care trip-and--round-of-antibiotics game upped by the youngest's stint in the ER this week, umpteen relocations, ... it's been not the least bit restful nor relaxing. Each time I swear we will only get into 4 of the bags, I realize that I don't have x and it can only be in one of the 6 other suitcases ... I think we're all ready to just unpack the damn bags already for the last time.
The apartments and AirB&Bs we've been in are great, don't get me wrong. We've been lucky to have booked great spots in good locations, especially considering how little research we actually did on the 'vacay' part of this summer. The lodging we had in VA during consultations and training, also, totally fine. I'm not complaining. Well, maybe a little bit, because as 'fine' as these spots have been, they are also not 'home'. And they are always on the 3rd damn floor which is a PAIN in the keister with the 10 damn bags. It was, admittedly, not our brightest plan to do the 'vacation' portion of this trip are we'd left D.C. (So with all of the aforementioned bags in tow). Definitely make note of that's for future trips. You'd think, this being our 7th post, we'd not have hit that rather big stumbling block but ... there you go.
I am really looking forward to cooking again. I am really looking forward to not having downstairs neighbors to worry about. I am really looking forward to my own coffee machine. I am really looking forward to having the opportunity to say 'just go out and play' and know the kids are in our own yard space. I am really looking forward to school starting and having a regular schedule. I am really looking forward to my hubby getting his new position started so his stress can go down. I'm looking forward to figuring out my new city. I am most definitely looking forward to unpacking these bags -- all of them -- and not using them again for a good long while.
In the middle of all of this moving hoopla, I also really just miss my home, which for the last 4 years has been the same house in the same town in the same country. I know we will resettle and love it, but ... there is so much change right now. We need a little bit of permanence. I don't know that I've ever felt this need for some sort of stability quite so fiercely as I do this summer. Maybe this is because we were in our last country for 4 years and we got out of practice of this moving thing. Maybe this is because the kids are older and this is so much more of a THING for them. Maybe this is because ... it really has been a hell of a summer.
Don't get me wrong: I love the States. I love the conveniences we have here, and the unique beauty of each neighborhood we visit. I love the mesh of cultures and individualities. I love the personalities of the people and the cities. I love the green and the regular trashcans and clean public restrooms. I love that we can buy what we need at convenience stores or giant grocery warehouses. I love that people understand queues and our need for information. I love that we can ask questions and not offend. I love that we can wear what we want. I love that I can choose my item in a store and be able to read the label. I love that when I order food it generally comes as I have requested. I love that we have so many choices and options and opportunities. I love how we embrace sports and being active.
The hardest question we get asked is 'where are you from', and right now, honestly, we don't have an answer. This, the States, is my Home (capital H) but this is not my home. I really miss having a home. Time to get on with it.