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Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Invisible Gaps or Why Can't I Give My Kids Everything They Need?


Mom and dad stepped off the concrete steps into the baggage area where I was standing. I’d been waiting a few extra minutes at the airport because their flight had been delayed. I took one look at their worn faces and slumped shoulders and shook my head. 

“Man am I glad you’re here - I’ve been waiting forever, I’m exhausted!”

All kidding aside, the flight from New Brunswick to Houston isn’t an easy trek. I’m grateful they want to do it at all. 

Airports are particularly tiring for me (and probably mom) because everyone’s exhaustion, confusion, and anxiety is hard to tune out. It gets all mingled with your own and amplified. I always fly with one earbud in, tuned to soothing spa music. Do not listen to Green Day while standing alone in line waiting to go through security with three bags, two babies, one stroller, and one tiny, terrified dog. But that’s a story for another time.

My parents are lovely. I don’t know why we didn’t let them rest their first morning here. But we didn’t. We schlepped them off to the NASA space center for the day. We drove an hour to get there, then stood in line for the tram for exactly 7 minutes, the length of time we had to figure out we’d be waiting another 40 minutes in line with two hungry babies and then another hour for the tour. We couldn’t get out of THAT line soon enough. 

We had a little picnic when we were done. Ever notice how turkey sandwiches taste better when you eat them outside? The bread is soft and the turkey is cold and the mayonnaise is tangy. The chips taste saltier, the grapes sweeter, the water fresher.

Maybe it's the extra yoga I’ve been doing at home, preparing for the Intro to Kundalini workshop I did this morning. Maybe it was the relief and joy of having my parents join us on this beautiful fall day in Texas. 

Whatever it was, the love I have for my family, for my kids kind of bubbled over and I couldn’t keep the happy in. Luckily for me my kids are not yet embarrassed by public displays of affection. I just had to gather them up and kiss them all over their little heads. A kiss on their tiny noses, their little ears, a big I-love-you-so-much hug where I try to send all the overflow of love I’m feeling through my arms around them. And my parents understand my grin shows how happy I am to have them here with us.

Ellie takes to Nana so well it’s like she never left. It’s bittersweet to see them setting up a game on the floor in the living room, or her sitting still and letting Nana braid her hair. 

Ellie loves having Nana here, and I can see the gaps when they’re forehead to forehead, working out a tricky puzzle-piece. Ellie needs her grandparents closer. 

It isn’t a want. They fill a need in her that mom and dad just can’t fill. It hurts that I can’t give her that. 

I knew raising kids so far from home was going to be tough for me. I hadn’t stopped to consider how tough it would be for my kids too. I guess I assumed since it was all they would know, they wouldn’t feel like they were missing anything? But that is clearly not the case. Ellie is much more balanced, secure, patient, and kind to Benji and herself with Nana and Papa here. 

It’s a hurt only people who’ve had to move away from home can really understand. Some of us traveling not just to another country but to another continent. Crossing oceans and cultures and boundaries and society-specific rules that need to be learned. Like anything, being an Ex-pat has it’s own world of struggle that can never be understood until you’re going through it yourself.

Even as I am making a life here, getting to teach yoga at Yoga Pod, applying to be a substitute teacher at my local public schools, I can’t help but look back and wish we could all be closer. Family is everything to me, and I can’t help but hold the vain hope we can all be together. Is that so wrong?

"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one." Jane Howard.