Have you seen this girl?

I am a mother…

I am a wife…barely…

I am …who am I anymore?

I’d like to say I am still me, but that would be a lie.

Today my quest to breach the walls of my emotional fortress took me to Utrecht, a city that holds a ton of fond memories for me. As I was making my way back to the train station, something pulled me in the direction of my alma mater. It wasn’t planned. I was just walking, enjoying the medieval, gothic architecture as I so often had in the past, when I spied a street sign. The street name instantly brought back flashes of me sitting in a wonderful, classic, almost regal lecture hall, with so much history oozing out of the walls, you’d half expect Shakespeare or Chaucer to walk in at any moment.

My college days, though stressful, were bliss to me, an avid bookworm. I read so many wonderful books and stories in such a short time: Native, African and Early American fiction. Delving into the English classics was a real treat. And a course that I’ll never forget where the lecture consisted of watching some of the early Star Wars movies. How cool is that?! The movie buff in me was thrilled. I actually cried the day I graduated, because that was the day harsh reality officially set in. When adult life and all the struggles that come with it slowly started smothering the dreamer in me.

As per usual, the only chocolate chip in a bowl of vanilla ice cream😊

I walked the rest of the way back with a smile on my face, allowing other memories to resurface as I passed by more personal landmarks. I don’t do that often – allow myself to reminisce – especially on happy times, or if I do not for long. I’m afraid the nostalgia and longing will become too much to bear. A longing for a life less complicated and a period when I had time for myself. When I was allowed to be ME.

I am a mother…

I am a wife…barely…

I am …who am I anymore?

Have you seen this girl?

Books and music. These are a few of my favourite things…🎵🎶

She loves to read. Her favourite T-shirt says “I don’t read books, I devour them.”

She loves music. It cheers her up and energizes her.

She loves movies. At one point, she would go see two movies every weekend.

She loooooves to learn. She’s taught herself quite a lot from books and through practice.

She dreams of travelling the world and becoming a modest selling author.

Sadly, she disappeard a while back. Priorities, lack of time and responsibilities made her feel like an unwelcome distraction. Guilt drove her away. But it’s time for her to come home. I don’t know when I lost her, but it’s time to find her before she’s gone for good. Before she becomes a cold case.

If you catch a glimpse of her, let me know. Tell her she’s needed. Tell her without her I am not whole.

I am just…

[Dot dot dot]. A space, a void, waiting on fulfillment that will never come and satisfaction that will never be complete.

My first and last project of 2018

Sooooo, I was playing with the boys in our already cluttered toy corner. At one point, my youngest, Thing 2, goes to the small, sad-looking plastic play kitchen set I bought about a year and a half ago, and starts cooking up a storm. Probably trying to recreate what he saw daddy cooking the day before (all the while chatting away in his unique toddler-speak. I understood “yummy” and “chicken”.) He was perfectly happy with this cheap little toy, but I no longer was. Motherly guilt sets in, and I hear two tiny voices say:

...you should get them a proper play kitchen

…yeah, with a fridge

…and a microwave

…yeah, and buttons that actually move!

…SOLD!

Now mind you, that all happened in the space of a second, without consulting me, the actual conscience entity in charge. But since my mind had already been made up for me, by me 1 and me 2, I thereafter became obsessed with play kitchens for the next week until I actually bought the darn thing.

What my otherwise clever brain failed to realize while perusing and obsessing over the thousands of kitchens that I googled was that they don’t come assembled. I mean, I knew it, but my brain, I think, actively kept that information hostage in my subconscience in order to shield me from the trauma to come. What followed once the package had been delivered was a 10-hour ordeal which I would have gladly exchanged for either one of my two, painful labour experiences.

I exagerate, I know, but just let me have this.

15:00

Husband had been in a mood for days, so I decided to tackle this project on my own. I wasn’t daunted. I had singlehandedly put together furniture in my college days. I could handle a tiny play kitchen, no sweat. Be done in 3 hours.

Remember when I mentioned something about 10 hours?! Yeah, so…

With Thing 2 down for a nap, and Thing 1 enjoying his screen time (Husband out of my hair grocery shopping), I decide to familiarise myself with the manual and start looking for the pieces to this ginormous puzzle.

20:07

About five hours (and an incident with Thing 1) later, this is what my efforts had amounted to…

Not much to show for, except a nice mess that I now had to keep my youngest from stepping all over. He had awoken in a foul mood, so guess how that went! Husband was put in charge of rallying the kids which helped …some…

22:22

The punishment continues. You’d think I was almost done, but this is when all the little detail pieces with the tiny screws rear their ugly heads. Screws that need to be screwed in upside down. Wait, what? Yeah, you read that right. In the end, it was easier caving and asking Husband for help to flip the whole kitchen set upside down. Luckily his mood improved when he realized he, I mean the boys, were getting a new toy.

23:45

I take charge again. Getting tired and making stupid mistakes. Just a few screws and bolts to go and the tiny screw driver that came with the package slides…under…the fridge. What the!!! Fridge is too heavy to move. All my MacGyver tricks to try and shimmy it out fail miserably. I could just kick myself, until I remember…

23:52

My trusted Swiss-army-knife-like IKEA-screw-driver thingy. Thank goodness I wasn’t too tired to remember where I kept it. ♥️The temporary love of my life.♥️

00:01

It’s done. It’s really done! No, wait. Am I just dreaming? Did I fall asleep? Ouch, no, I’m awake. Woohoooo🎉🎊🏆

00:02

…What the heck is that! Oh, Pringles, did I forget a bunch of screws?!?! I bet it’s gonna cave in like a house of cards. I bet it’s …oh, just spare parts. O.k., mini heart attack subsiding. Need to change my undies.

00:54

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t go above and beyond my already exhausted mental limits by staying up just a bit more so I could dress it up a little for them. I even added some dishes in the sink to get them started on the right path to kitchen chore management. O.k. boys, go follow in your daddy’s footsteps!🥞🧀🌽🍌🌮🍗🍳🥗😛

01:??

Showered and in bed. Yeah, I’m getting too old for this…

So boys, I love you guys, but this has been my first and last project of the year. Well, until me 1 and me 2 get me me in trouble again. Those meddlesome Monas better learn to keep their trapholes shut!😒

Tsunami-esque terrible twos

Last week was a helluva long week, courtesy of my youngest Hellraiser who, for the remainder of this article I’ll refer to as Gremlin.

So, Mr Gremlin recently turned two. You hear a lot about the terrible twos. The moodswings, the tantrums, the complete and utter lack of cooperation at the most inconvenient times. It’s all true. (If your child hasn’t shown signs of this in some shape or form, he or she is broken.)

I kid, I’m just seething with jealousy.

I actually thought I had a handle on things, because a) I had survived my eldest’s terrible-two-phase and b) Gremlin’s “ones” weren’t exactly a walk in the park. The ominous ones, as I’d jokingly call them. Haaaa, if I’d only known. How much worse could it get? Well, apparently much, much, MUCH worse.

His screams reached decibels and pitches I’d previously thought his little lungs were incapable of reaching. He somehow managed to transform his 12,5 kg body into a one-man wrecking ball; arms and legs flailing in a blurry fit of anger. You know the term spitting mad. Well, I now know where it comes from; he’d work himself into such a fit that he’d go from screaming to spitting froth in anger. I half expected him to spew vomit and do an Exorcist-headspin a couple of times. 

Oh, he’s just possessed. That I can deal with…

He’s had mood swings since he was a baby

If I had to rate his behaviour on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being sweet and well behaved, 3 mischievous, and 5 tantrum throwing, I’d say he operated at level 7 all week and at all hours of the day. At night, he’d wake up every two hours and pick up where he had left off: screaming, flapping around the bed like a homicidal fish out of water, willfully inconsolable until he tired himself enough to fall back asleep.

Nothing would calm him. Everything was $#!+. 

If I offer something to drink. WEEEH!

I remove the aforementioned drink. WEEEH!

I remove his soiled diaper. WEEEH!

I try to put on a fresh diaper. WEEEH!

I give him a bath. At first he enjoys it, he’s happy and playing, when out of the blue…WEEEH!

I try to take him out of the tub. WEEEH, WEEEH, WEEEH!

There was just no way to win with him. He wasn’t sick. He wasn’t in pain. That I’d confirmed. This was just a battle of wills. Little did he know, I had a few tricks up my sleeve from my battles with his predecessor that are once again helping me weather the tsunami of his mental onslaught. 

Earplugs!!!

Earplugs are a great way to take the edge off the intensity of the tantrum. Especially when he seems stuck in that high-pitched ‘mommy’s killing me’ shriek. (I’m still surprised no one has called the cops yet, on the assumption that bloody murder was being committed next door). The earplugs don’t drown him out completely, but they lower the volume to the point that I no longer feel like my head is slowly splitting in two.

🛑Beware🛑: if you want to test this out, be sure to keep your little banshee (and any other rugrats you may have running around) in your line of sight at all times. Parents’ ears are their nr. one asset in preventing child-initiated disasters, so if those are impaired, the eyes must take over.

Imagine the unspeakable

I don’t like resorting to this one, so I only use this trick if I’m at my wit’s end and my patience is wearing dangerously, freakishly low. I imagine how horibly miserable I would be if he were…I can’t even type the words. The thought alone sends such a powerful surge of sadness, regret, guilt and anxiety through my body, that any shred of anger instantly disappears. I could be steaming at the ears one moment, and the next I’m just utterly grateful to be able to hug and kiss him and that he’s healthy and well, albeit still super mega cranky.

How many times have you read about parents shaking their babies to death, or doing any number of other unspeakable and senseless things to a child and thought how could they and never will I. Even though I still know I never would, I now understand how some, the truly desperate, could, in a moment of weakness, a drugged haze or tired daze do the unspeakable and unforgivable.

There but for the grace of God…

Distance

So, if you’re in a bad way (already) and dealing with the onslaught of tantrums is just too much to bear, put some physical distance between you and your little terrorists. No, do not leave them unsupervised and to their own devices. If you can, turn them over to your partner, parents, in-laws, a friend or neighbour you trust. And go somewhere else. Go do some errands or take a shower. Just take break.  

If you’re lucky enough to have a good support network, use it! If you don’t, reach out to your GP and ask what resources are at your disposal. Look, I of all people know it’s hard to ask for help. To me, it felt/ feels like weakness, inadequacy, and failure. But the alternatives, a broken parent or child, are to be avoided at all cost.

Do something unpredictable and silly

I like keeping my boys on their toes, have them wondering what is this crazy mom of mine going to do next, but you know, in a fun way. So, for example, when one of them becomes particularly unbearable, I seek comfort and release in music. I look for the most guitar-laden, drum-drenched rock song I can find on my phone, hook it up to the stereo, crank the volume, and sing and dance my heart out. More often than not, the shock of being ignored and having something be louder than them, shuts them up faster than any soothing words I could ever utter.

Chill

I’ve also learned to cut myself some slack. By day four of the tantrum marathon, I was giving my eldest the phone in the morning so I’d have at least one cooperative little person to start my day a tad more easily. I know it’ll cost me MOT (mother of the year) title, but at least I made it through the mornings without wanting to jump out of my skin. And when they went to bed, I rewarded myself with a little chocolate – *cough* half a bar *cough*. (Hey, a year ago it would have been a bar and a half, so I’d say that shows improvement on my part).

All in all, I remind myself that this parenting gig is a long-term deal. No one benefits if I burn out this early in the game. I still have the terrifying threes, fearsome fours, frightening fives…well you get what I have to look forward to. And don’t get me started on puberty. Woohoo. Fun times ahead.😐 *Groan* Yeah… Two is definitely my limit!



Food feud

In keeping my anniversary resolution to focus on the positive reasons why I got married, I have a confession to make. Don’t tell my husband, but one of the reasons (perhaps even the main reason) I married him is because the man can cook – major exclamation point! When we started our relationship almost 19 years ago, I was at beginner level in my cooking skills. I specialized in dishes that could be cooked and eaten in 20 minutes or less. 

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from my Chef. I’m nowhere near his level of expertise. I still need some semblance of a recipe (steps to reproduce, as it were), on paper or in my head, whereas he can cook up delicious masterpieces on the fly. And that’s o.k.

That’s why I married him.

About a month after we met he asked me to marry him. Naturally, I was hesitant, to say the least. But he won me over, the first time he cooked for me. After that, I knew he was the one. They say the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. If so, I must be part man. (I joke, but that would also explain my style of shopping: in-and-out, no dilly-dallying, just get what I need and get out of the store).

I’ve only known two other men who can cook as well (/better). My uncle Fernando and my eldest brother Irwin. Little does my brother know, he is in an ongoing cook-off with hubby. 

Here’s what’s up. Every once in a while, my brother, bless his soul, brings me a dish of whatever mouth-watering concoction he’s produced. It’s like he has a sixth sense for knowing just when I’m in need of some delicious comfort food. My husband, for reasons unbeknownst to me, sees this as a challenge, and he goes above and beyond to make the next meal he prepares (more often than not a variation of my brother’s dish) extra scrumptious. 

How do I know, you ask? Could it all be in my head, pray tell? I know this for a fact, because for the duration of the meal, and sometimes the day after (if there are any leftovers) he repeatedly asks whether I’m enjoying the meal and how it compares to my brother’s. Not once, not twice, but sometimes as much as five times. 

First time he asks

What I think: Can’t talk. Too busy eating. Lalalalala. Nomnomnom

What I say: “Mmmm, *chomp, chomp* hmmm mmm!”

Second time he asks

What I think: Dude, you’re harshing my food buzz. 😕

What I say: “Yeah, its really delicious!!”

Third  time he asks

What I think: I know you heard me just now. 

What I say: “Yeah!”

Fourth time he asks (as I’m fixing myself another plate!)

What I think: *Sigh*

What I say, every word dipped in monotonous sarcasm: “It’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever eaten. I don’t think I can swallow another bite.” 

Fifth time he asks

What I think: O.k. I’m done with this game.

What I say: “….. I’m sorry, did you say something?”

As I said, I don’t know the reason he feels the need to outcook my brother. Is he that competitive? Is he just jealous I like someone else’s cooking as much (/more)? And why ask for my opinion so many times! Is he just deaf? Or does he get off on the validation?

End-of-year ham. Sinfully delicious!

If I’m in a particularly good mood, I’ll consent to a little bootlicking, especially for his specialty dishes, like his end-of-year turkey and ham. I make it a point to compliment him so profusely, the only thing missing from that scenario would be me doing splits while waving pom poms around. Most days the cheerleader in me is just too pooped to care. She just wants to binge eat, roll over and go to sleep.

Competitive, jealous, deaf, or validation junkie. Je ne sais pas. It could be any or all of the above, really. I’m not gonna overanalyse the cause, I just want the effect, i.e. a tummy filled with lots of yummy stuff. As long as I have that, my marriage is rock solid.

Through rain an’ wind an’ weather

Back in June I won a smart watch, and this lucky event gave me the much needed jolt to kickstart my baby-weight loss journey. Certain things fizzled out pretty quickly, like keeping a food journal, and tracking my water intake and sleep patterns. But the bike riding continued, and so did the weight loss.

In just 6 months, I’ve lost just a little over 10 kg. That’s not impressive speed-wise; there’s been a couple of times that my stress eating got the better of me and the scale went up instead of down. However, I’ve amazed myself at the level of commitment I’ve shown to my food and biking regiment, all for a weight loss journey that I wasn’t even planning on beginning this year.

People, I am so committed to reaching my target weight (and maintain it) that I biked in sub-zero degree weather…and snow😐

It doesn’t snow often in the Netherlands, but when it does…

Once I even biked without gloves! Here’s how that happened. Thing 2, my ray of sunshine in the morning, *cough* NOT *cough*, was in a particularly bright mood one day. I would have left in my ear plugs if I’d slept with any the night before ( I now have a stash so I never run out…ever again!) After extensive bargaining, threatening, pleading, I’d failed in every attempt to improve his mood. So there I am, super late from wrestling him into clothes and shoes and his coat, I finally get him and his brother strapped into the bike seats, when I realize my gloves aren’t in my coat pocket. They…are…on…the kitchen counter.

It had snowed a few days before. The snow had started to melt, so it was safe to make the 15 minute bike ride without fear of slipping off the road and falling in a freezing ditch along the way, but it was still really cold. 3 °C, but like real-feel -2°C. I really, really needed those gloves, but getting them would have involved me unstrapping my unreasonable toddler from his bike seat, and taking him back inside to get the gloves, then taking him back out and trying to strap him in again.

Eyes shooting daggers. And this was when the weather was nice!

Remembering the level of cooperation he had just given me (also in the minus) I opted to risk losing a couple of digits to the cold, rather than subject myself to another demonstration of his impressively loud lung-horns. I was already mega late and had a splitting headache, a little frostbite was exactly what I needed to complete my little circle of hell. Laissez les mal temps rouler.

…a little frostbite was exactly what I needed to complete my little circle of hell.

Well thankfully nothing dramatic happened; I am using all 10 fingers to type today’s blog.🖑🖐 Since then I make sure to double check my pockets before locking the door, because the only thing I am willing to shed off my body is fat, lol.

No rest for the weary or sick

Where does the time go people? It’s October!🤤

What comes to mind when you think October?

  • …Pumpkins?
  • …Falling, orange leaves?
  • …Halloween?
  • …Almost Christmas?
  • …Almost 2018!!!?

Well, when I think October, I think flus, head colds and laryngitis. What can I say, the past couple of October’s have not been good to me. 

Yes, ’tis the season of coughing and sneezing, fevers and wheezing. If the weather doesn’t get me, or the a-holes in the train who have never heard of covering their mouths when they cough or their noses when they sneeze, I can rest assured my kids will. Because whatever virus my little outbreak monkeys catch at daycare, they are sure to bring it home and share it with me. Frequently.😐 Generously. 😑

Now, throughout the year, 9 out of 10 times the damage is minimal: I get the sniffles, I get the chills, yet I am still able to function at 89% capacity. But every now and again, right around this time, they bring home a whopper that floors me to the point that I long for the sweet release of death. But Death just laughs and says, you’re on your own chica.

Everyone expects business as usual.

The kids still need to be dropped off at daycare. I can barely deal with them when I’m healthy, so yeah, they gots to go. But can’t your husband take them, you ask?

😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂

You obviously have not read my other blog posts. My husband, offer to help, lol, you’re funny!

Problem no. 1 there is that he works an early shift. No. 2, me being almost-dead sick does not constitute as a good reason to miss work or go in late in his book. I’ve learned to accept that. As long as I don’t actually keel over, he’s in luck.

The kids still need to be bathed and fed. They still expect you to play with them, endure their rough-housing, and still expect you to have all the patience in the world when their screams are tearing apart the last nerves that weren’t already in searing agony.

Why?

Cause that’s just what moms do.

24/7. 365 days a year. Even when we’re sick, we’re still on active mom-duty. I remember having to put in earplugs, cause my inner-mom could not rest if she could hear her babies in need. My impulse was to get up and do something about it, even though I knew that the room would pirouette and karate-chop me to the ground if I were to attempt such a stupid move in my feverish condition.

Don’t get me wrong. My husband does his share, but if I were to award grades for parenting performance, I’d have to send him to remedial school. I’m grateful to be living in a modern society where mothers have a few more liberties than say 60 years ago. But even though we say that men and women divide the burden of parenting equally, we all know that’s bull manure.

Sometimes it’s due to circumstances. Sometimes it’s intentional. Sometimes one spouse just cannot comprehend what the other goes through and does every day. Whatever is broke gets fixed so quickly that the other person never even knows it was broke in the first place. You get what I mean?

And that got me thinking about how we divide the physical and mental load (in my opinion, as I’m sure my husband sees things differently). See chart below.

If kids could buy a parent at the store, which one do you think they’d choose based on these specs?

And that led me to think what a review by my son might be like:

Shawty14 | October 24th 2017 | Mom-bot 4K Ultra

“Good battery endurance. Nice speed. Sometimes cranky”

  • 🌟Loving
  • 🌟Kind
  • 🌟Makes me laugh
  • 🌟Plays with me
  • 🌟Well organised
  • 🌟Cooks delicious food
  • 🚨Bossy
  • 🚨Demanding
  • 🚨Prone to viruses

I’ve had the mom-bot ultra 4K for almost 4 years now and despite the cons mentioned above I wouldn’t trade it in. I would have given it a 10 out of 10 if it let me sleep in more. And if it had a mute button.

B.t.w., I’ve been told that if you allow the mom-bot to relax frequently virus resistance increases. But who’s got time for that? I need it on-call at all times. It’s bad enough that its response time to me crying has steadily decreased as I got older.

MischiefIncarnate replied
Lol. Mute button. IKR?! Thanks for the heads up on that crying thing. Thought it was just malfunctioning with me.

You may have noticed I used it and its instead of she and her. That’s because I suspect that my sons don’t see me as the fragile human being that I am. The way they roughhouse with me, climbing over me like I’m some comfy throw pillow if I make the mistake of laying down for even just a second.  The way my youngest once re-fe-used to eat unless he could pick the food out of my hand, thereby basically reducing me to a plate. There’ll come a time when they’ll understand that mommy has feelings too and that they have to take these into account. Until them I’m expected to be operational and available no matter what, like a machine.

So on the one hand, I have a husband who, though affectionate and kind, has in the past displayed the empathy level of a rock, and will undoubtedly do so in the future. It’s in his nature and that is my cross to bear (part of the fine print in the marriage contract, so to speak). On the other hand, I have two kids who don’t yet understand that the world doesn’t revolve around just them. How do I make sure I don’t have a nervous breakdown or start binging on chocolate and what not (again) to get through the day?

Honestly I don’t have a clear answer…yet. I just know I have to seize the little things that make me happy and open the valve on the pressure cooker in my head, and one of the things that helps with that is blogging. And if another distraught and overworked mom (or dad) stumbles upon it and gains even a modicum of comfort or comic relief out of it, well that’s another motivator for me to keep going. Even if I’m only cranking out one blog a month.

The blog is also a monthly reminder of why I quit the babymaking game. This month’s reminder: I’d like to go back to being able to be guiltfree-sick and not have anyone depend on me for the duration of my illness. As long as there are children under the age of 18 under my care, I will always come in second, in sickness and in health. So tie my tubes already. No more delays in my parenting pension plan.😏

Vacation😑 – Not really

For non-parents vacation equals relaxation, “me-time”, and adventure.

I can’t speak for all parents, but my guess is that for the most of you, vacation does not include any of the above, especially if you have young kids. Or it may include adventure in the sense of your kid getting lost at a theme park! Yeah, that happened – more later on. So, no, not the good kind of thrill you might be hoping for.

I’ve just had the most relaxing week in the past three years. Not because I was on vacation, but because my husband (with the aid of his mom) had kid-duty this entire week. My parenting hours were thereby drastically reduced: from dinner time, when I’d get home, to about 21.00 when I’d put one or both to bed, max 3 hours a day. Heaven!

This meant:

No being cried awake by my youngest. 

No wrestling my eldest out of bed. He’s not a morning person; he gets that from the both of us. 

No trying to get everyone clothed, fed, and out the door by a certain time. 

No biking in the morning.

No tantrums at school when I drop them off. 

No guilty feelings for having to leave them there.

No guilty feelings for being secretly happy to be rid of them for a few hours.

No stressing about “making my train or risk reaching too late for pick-up”.

No fighting to get them ready to go home at pick-up. 

No embarrassment from hearing how my neuroatypical eldest had an episode and pushed a kid, or had a meltdown for no apparent reason; it’s an ongoing process trying to figure out his triggers.

No stress in trying to distract them long enough to cook.

No guilt when I finally give in and let them have screen time for much too long.

In addition to that, no endless diaper changes, no repeating myself incessantly, or constantly anticipating the next blowout. 

None of the above. It’s been pure bliss. Well I needed it, because the week before that was hell on earth, physically and emotionally (I’m partly to blame for the physical part).

Although they’re too young to remember much of what goes on in their daily lives, I wanted to do fun stuff with them so I could create digital memories for them. So Monday we went to a theme park for young kids (I’d say ages 10 and under): Oud Valkeveen

That meant getting up early to make breakfast and pack lunches for four people (technically three, cause the kids don’t eat that much). I prepped as much as I could the night before, but I always end up forgetting stuff.

Pack extra clothes in case of poo-namies (thats when the poo escapes the boundaries of the diaper) or if we decided to go swimming. 

Get the kids up, fed, dressed and everyone out the door by a certain time so we could catch the bus, train, another bus, and finally a 30 minute hike to our destination.  (Don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this, but we don’t have a car, and since grandma doesn’t bike, we had to rely on public transportation and our feet to get where we needed to be.)

I’m getting exhausted again just thinking about it.

Lots more walking. Fighting with my eldest to get on the rides, followed by more fighting to get him off after 3 turns so we can go on the next one. Thankfully there was an enclosed part where the littlest could run free without getting lost, so we went there for lunch.

As I turn my back for one minute to clean up I hear crying. Instinctively I turn, as it’s coming from the direction I last saw my eldest. He’s not the one crying, but there’s a smaller kid next to him who is, and an angry dad picking him up. “Uh, no” I think. As I start walking over, the dad taps my son on the back and asks why he pushed his son. Not hard, just to get his attention. Still, lucky for the dad that my husband wasn’t there, or he would have had a broken arm and I’d have a spouse in jail.

Of course my son doesn’t react, because 1) he doesn’t understand what the dad is saying and 2) he doesn’t understand what he did wrong(?), or doesn’t care(?). I added the question marks, because I have no idea what goes in in that little head of his. 

So I do what I always do, stay calm, apologise on his behalf, and “make” him sign an apology (hoping someday he’ll actually get what that means). I explained to the dad, that although he may look big (like a five year-old), he isn’t as mentally developed as he should be by age 3,5. The dad was appeased and they went on their way, but of course that left a sour feeling in my heart the rest of the day and a blemish on what should have been a happy memory. 

I shift back into hawk mode: watching his every move and anticipating situations that may be a danger to him or may lead to a confrontation with others. So in addition to being physically tired from all the walking, running-after, dragging-along, I am now also mentally exhausted from running the various scenarios in my head and dealing with the actual ones. 

By 17.00 I call it quits and we start preparing to head home. Last round of diaper changes, coats on and toilet breaks for grandma and me. Thing 2 is strapped into his buggy, so I give my eldest, Thing 1, my phone as an extra distraction and leave him with grandma. I couldn’t have been gone more than 5 minutes, but when I get back grandma is walking with the buggy and my eldest is nowhere to be found. He dropped the phone, made a dash for it and slipped right through grandma’s fingers.

Panick !!!

Immediately, the worst case scenarios flood my mind and they are only magnified by the fact that his communication skills are so weak. If called, he won’t answer. If asked questions, he won’t answer. He was wearing a wristband with my telephone number, but I’d just put on his coat, so that wasn’t immediately visible. I end up retracing my steps to the last ride we’d been to and that he had enjoyed, the bumper cars. 

The ride attendant was great; she radioed it in and kept me calm in the meantime. The only thing is, I had to stay put to hear back from whoever was on that other line on the radio. Another mom (wearing a bright pink jacket) seeing my distress left her husband and child (!) and went to look for my son. ❤ That selfless gesture helped, but as the scenarios in my head shifted from what my son might be getting up to, to what someone with less than wholesome intentions might try to do to him, it all became too much and I started crying.

Thankfully, they found him not too much later, perhaps 5 minutes, although it felt like 60. He was on a ride not five feet away from where I’d left him with grandma. We’d been on it like six times already, but he apparently couldn’t get enough. He had gotten on and subsequently refused to get off. In that moment, I was thankfull for his ‘obsessive’ nature.

I could’ve gotten angry. Just like the dad from earlier, I could have asked why. I could’ve threatened him with a thousand different types of punishment, but didn’t because he just doesn’t understand. And that makes parenting him hard. Because I know I can’t give up on trying. He’s learning, just at his own pace. And while he may not get it today, some day the penny will drop. Probably when I least expect it. 

In the end, I was just grateful to have my son back in my arms, alive, happy, and unharmed. So I let it all go, all the tears, resentment, anger. My son remembers none of it. Well, I assume he doesn’t, because he’s just as carefree as ever.

We went home and rested. Tuesday we stayed home. If you think that meant resting, think again. Especially with my tiny attention seeker

Wednesday, a repeat of all the prep stress. Bus, train, bus, hike, this time to Duinrell. Nothing noteworthy happened there, thank God. Needless to say, I limitted the amount of bathroom breaks I took. If I couldn’t take him with me, I strapped him in to the buggy (which he’s too big for, which meant I had to strap one leg in). The youngest would be free, but grandma can catch him if he runs. 

Thursday we stayed home, see Tuesday.

Friday I had a trip planned to an indoor playground we’d never been to before, but since that involved a thirty minute hike, I decided “Ah, NO”. I allowed myself one lazy decision and went to the indoor playground nearest us. The only thing easy about that day was getting there. I split up guard duties: grandma with Thing 2 in the toddler section. That left Thing 1 over to me to flank in the bigger kids’ section, because the toddler section hasn’t been a challenge for/ entertaining to him since he was 2.5. Mister has the energy of a team of young puppies, the speed of a cheetah and the stealth of a ninja. Keeping up with his play for four hours felt like a nine hour bootcamp session.

So thats why, the following week I was happy, nay eager to hand over the baton to team hubby and relax at work. All in all, my vacation week was stressfull, exhausting, even depressing at times. 

And yet…rewarding. 

Carousels. They never get old. Even the really, really old ones.

At night, I’d recall the smiles, the hugs, the kisses and the laughter. The laughter is what warms my heart the most. It’s what keeps me in the game and no matter how many figurative  (and literal) punches I have to take in the parenting ring, their laughter and happiness is what keeps me going back for more. When they’d go to sleep at night, tired but happy, I’d go to sleep, exhausted and satisfied. They might not remember any of it, the good or the bad, but I will. I just choose to focus on the good. And so, I resign myself to the fact that, for the next decade or so, vacations will not equal relaxation. What doesnt kill me, will only make me stronger.😏💪🏽💪🏽💪🏽