Our Chevy Suburban arrived in Germany last week. On that day, I had walked the kids down to the park we discovered only 4 blocks from our apartment here in Landstuhl. The kids had really enjoyed the park. On that particular day, they met a few children that speak English whose mother is native German, and father is a civilian for the Department of Defense. On the walk back to the apartment, Patrick broke down. He told me, "I want to be their friends but I am too shy to ask. I need to be where I belong and that is in Arizona."
We have had a handful of these types of breakdowns with the kids that focus on anything from not having their dog Holly anymore, missing their extended family, missing their toys, their house, or their yard. I have even had a few myself over the challenge of getting out to exercise in our transient mode, family and friends, our regular routine and activities, and just thinking about the comfort of the home we left in Arizona. No one ever said change is easy.
Daniel has been driving the Suburban to work every day for a week now. Of course this leaves the children and I with no vehicle, but to be quite honest I would rather not drive it right now. First of all, I am fairly certain the street we live on was constructed before cars were even invented. Getting it down this street and backed in behind the apartment building takes some serious skill I am fairly certain I do not possess. Needless to say the kids and I have been hoofing it which is best anyway at this stage of our transition. The day Daniel brought the Suburban home, Patrick was lying on the couch in the living room crying about how much he misses his family, his home, his basset hound Holly.
Daniel came in and told the kids to look out the back window. When they saw their old car parked out back they all started to cheer. We all piled in and took a drive. I asked how they felt about having their car back. "Good. Very good." I never knew a 2003 Chevy Suburban could provide so much comfort and solstice.
Last Thursday was also a particularly hard day. We have been to the park each day and to be quite honest, after spending 2 to 3 hours at the same neighborhood park for 3 weeks a child can somehow grow tired of the same activity. So on this day I decided to seek out a orthodontist for Teddy (it is on our to-do list here once we get settled). I found one right here in walking distance in Landstuhl and got a same day appointment.
Anyone that knows me knows I have a challenged sense of direction. I got turned around, asked for some directions from a few locals passing by, and somehow managed to get our motley crew to the back alley office. Perhaps this was not the best activity to schedule for this day but what is done is done. Long story short, Liam wet his pants and threw a temper tantrum and Rowan broke the braces off the model teeth in the office. We all left exasperated and emotionally spent. Teddy will be getting braces in January.
Shortly after leaving the office as we made our way through the narrow streets, Patrick and Rowan informed me Liam took a car from the toy box in the office. Liam had the guiltiest look on his face, and attempted to hide the car behind his back. I took the two youngest's hands and led them to an open square in the neighborhood with park benches and fountains. I sat them down, and explained to Liam why is was not okay to take the car. I have the car in my purse with every intention of returning it when I can leave my posse behind with their father.
In all this calamity and emotion, we managed to find a silver lining. After resting a spell on the park bench, we realized all the mothers and grandmothers everywhere rolling up the pants and removing the shoes of young children to romp in the fountains. There were water misters, waterfalls down the stairs, even a small splash pad. What anyone in the United States would deem as off limits, these Germans found perfectly suitable for cooling off in on a steamy August afternoon.
Liam jumped off the park bench and raced for the splash pad- socks, shoes, jeans and all. I quickly peeled off everyone's shoes and socks, rolled up everyone's jeans, and let them have their freedom.
At this moment I realized a big part of our struggle are my expectations. I have been expecting my children to act like adults. They are not adults. Not only have they been temporarily stripped of their home, their toys, and their dog, but they cannot go outside and play, run, swim, or explore as they did with their own home and their own yard. I need to stop trying to stifle their innate desire to explore, run, jump, touch, and move. I need to choose my battles. So today, in this moment, I let them move without their mother trying to tell them what to do. They walked home soaking wet, but happy.
One thing i have noticed here in Germany is the lack of governing on simple things such as a park or a water fountain. In the United States, we are always trying to tell someone how tall or how old they must be to go down the slide. If you were to take your shoes off and stick them in the water fountain people would be mortified. I think as a society we should really start letting people know what they can do instead of what they cannot. Choose our battles wisely. Don't sweat the small stuff. Sometimes you just need to roll up your pants and get wet.
"Out of clutter find simplicity. From discord find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity."
Rowan and Liam under the mister with another little boy.
Liam playing in the water fall.