As my jet lagged body was trying to drift off to sleep last night, I started to think about my friends who are launching children into college this fall. There are a shocking lot of them. In my sleep/dream haze, I proudly thought I had an incline on how they must be feeling having had my own son away for six months this past year. True of any gloat of trying to walk in someone else’s shoes, the thought however stopped dead in its tracks when immediately followed by an image. The image was of fully grown children at sea. My kid had on a life vest. My friends college bound kids did not.
In my situation (which has been well documented on this blog), our son stayed back in Seattle for our first six months in Luxembourg to finish his first year of high school. It was hard to be apart, but we were also releasing our son into the loving arms of a family who shares our values and who honestly has a couple of parenting legs up on us. And, he was heading down the street in the neighborhood he grew up in. Same sea, different lifeguard. Safely released with his life vest on.
For those friends sending children off to college, geography is almost always changing and living situations are no longer parent-scripted. These kids need and are ready to swim on their own. In my dream image, some took off swimming like champions, but the majority fell into an unhurried universal freestyle stroke. A few sputtered around as they tried to get their swimming legs under them, while others dove down out of sight to explore their new world. Not a single one of them needed their life vests, but their parents were at shore holding them just in case. Most of the parents were shouting a few last tips, none of which could be heard against of the roar of the sea. Some parents of the sputtering swimmers did wade in the water to offer help, but their kids were too far away and rightly focused on remembering a stroke they’d already learned. Every parent of the underwater swimmers waited anxiously for their swimmer to resurface and then gasped a sigh of relief when they did. A couple of you-knew-they-would parents of the champion swimmers (naturally the only ones with swim caps) huddled together and compared swimming times. And because it was a half dream and I have puritanical roots, I weirdly noted that all the kids (at least for now) were wearing appropriate swimsuits.
My quasi dream was then interrupted by the small voice of a
similarly jet lagged child who couldn’t fall asleep. It was reported that his brother was also
awake, in bed with the iPad following the season's first college football game on
Gamecast (a habit we now need to break.) Over the next several hours
making tea, listening to (quiet, not hip hop!) music, playing board games, and rubbing
backs, I reimagined my dream as ME in the sea.
Though I’ve been a swimmer for a long time, after a rejuvenating three
weeks back in the US this summer where the water is shallow and floaties abound
– I’m back in the deep waters of living in a foreign country.
EVERYTHING seems to require that I swim. I can’t touch bottom, the floaties are more spread out, and even if the lifeguard was talking to me – I wouldn’t be able to understand him. I spent my first day back in Luxembourg on one of those epic quests to find something that doesn’t exist. (In this case, an EU power supply box for our brand new US purchased Xbox.) The tale is not worthy of retell, but suffice it to say that there was “smoking” and it will be another 7 days before the kids are able to use the gift that they are apparently the last kids in the US to have received. (It’s our first ever gaming system. Until this move, we were Xbox/Playstation/Wii Abstinent Champions. We may or may not have been obnoxious about it.)
To add insult to the voluminous unproductiveness that is my life here in Luxembourg, there is the also the Schuberfouer. In its 673th year, Schuberfouer is Europe's longest running carnival and it’s conveniently (if you’re up for fun) or inconveniently (if you’re grumpy and trying to get back into the serious flow of school and such) located in our neighborhood. I bounce back and forth. It’s convenient when we’re walking and a total pain in my arse when I’m trying to do any errand involving a car. Things like the Xbox power supply hunt naturally revolve around cars and large electronic stores that have everything except the thing I need. But then I bounce right back when I learn that yes, at the Schuberfouer, I can find the spices Sumac and Zatar. Those were previous epic quests that ended badly, and though I still don’t understand why spices are available at a carnival, I trust my source and walk there to get some.
It’s not just the epic errands, but it’s also (and more
importantly) trying to help my son navigate the new waters of not just a new
International High School, but a completely different academic paradigm. In the US, you have Biology then Chemistry then Physics. Here you have all science lumped together leveled for your grade, with materiaI deepening each year - the first year of which my son missed. And, this applies to all subjects. I know it will all be good, but it’s another something
to be sorted out. And you really don’t feel liking sorting when
everyone is bumping into each other in the middle of the night, or when at the hypermarket staring at a completely unfamiliar set of school supplies on the day they are needed.
When the boys finally fall asleep at 2am, I am in the sea and I’m feeling tired. I’m also no longer thinking about my friends college bound kids. I’ve been doing the butterfly this week, and my muscles are sore. I want to go back to Seattle, pop open a Diet Dr. Pepper, and drift on a familiar floatie. Much of this could have been avoided had we come back to Luxembourg with more than a 12 hour buffer for our oldest to start school, but 2am is never the right time to start in on self doubt and regret. Then I remember what I said in my Facebook post earlier that day: “If this carnival can survive two world wars, surely I can survive 3 weeks of emptying my pockets because "it's walking distance after all,Mom!"
Within the span of 24 hours, I can’t mention two world wars (or read about the one in Syria) and feel sorry for myself. Besides, I want to choose fun. With that, I head to the bathroom in search of a Melatonin.
Today is a new day, and the fun continues. Lawton vomited at the 5th grade welcome school tour this morning and then for good measure, again at the grocery store. So while jet lag is kicking all of our butts, we’ll be bracing ourselves for the family stomach bug. Given the heaving, Lawton and I have had to cancel our day trip to visit Seattle friends in Paris tomorrow (boohoo!). But tonight I will not be cooking. For those in the family who are able bodied, we will be walking to Schuberfouer for brats and beers.