Keeping busy in the statesFebruary 24, 2010
Our trip to the states is winding to an end along with the snow that dumped on the region when we arrived.
These visits seem to follow the same pattern each trip – minus the holiday visits which have their own obligations. On weekends I scramble to visit everyone, both friends and family who are working during the week. Monday through Friday, however, I struggle to find things to occupy the girls who after two or three days of freedom and ‘new’ toys, are bored and bouncing off the walls.
Vacationing in the states, for me, is in fact not so much a vacation. I come to the states with a handful of good intentions, like New Year’s resolutions. With none of the obligations that take up my time in France like school and activity taxiing, homework, meal cooking, and the endless cleaning that comes with a family of five and a bed and breakfast, I am under the illusion that for these few weeks, I will have time to relax. In fact, without the regular routine of school, I have constant kid duty. Those things I do almost daily in France that are organized into my ‘free’ time (school hours) like writing, blogging, exercising, and reading the bible, are almost impossible to squeeze into my days. Not because I’m so busy. Quite the opposite, as with the girls, during the weekdays I’m bored.
I find myself in an unaccustomed situation which is familiar to most American stay at home mom’s – my children at home all day, every day. I discover that when I try to exercise with three kids under 7 years old in the house, children who’ve been all but ignoring me most of the morning while I do dishes or laundry suddenly begin fighting or ‘need’ things. The same thing happens when I try to read or write. As soon as I occupy myself in what appears to them to be an entertaining activity ‘things’ happen; boo-boo’s, arguments, minor accidents like spills or broken toys. My purse and make-up bag become community property, bathroom sinks become swimming pools for stuffed animals, Barbies, and grandma’s toothbrush. I’ve spent many and afternoon fishing a Polly Pocket hat or shoe from the drain.
I wonder how I would handle motherhood in the states with only one child in school full-time. I am learing motherhood with a French attitude. I remember the summer before Olivia was due to start school. I worried that she was too young, just a baby at under three, to begin school. Although that is the standard school age in France. I was pregnant with Auriane at the time and she was due late September just a few short weeks after Olivia started her first year. Would Olivia think I traded her in for a new baby? Well, her rentree went incredibly well and it gave me time to adjust to a second child. I adjusted so well that the next two began shortly after their 2nd birthdays.
What do American mom’s do with their children all day until they are five years old? In an effort to cut down on TV and movie watching while in the states (And they do much more here than in France.), I search for games and activities that diffuse their energy. Thanks to the snow, they’ve spent time most days outside. We read books and play games. They’ve never been cleaner thanks to ridiculously long baths full of toys. They color, play dress-up (In fact, they’re rarely dressed in street clothes so why do I pack so much?) We’ve gone to museums and indoor play areas. I’m exhausted. But if I don’t keep them busy, they jump on the couch and run around in circles, literally. And they fight. Is this what all full-time mom’s go through?
My visits to the states are a nice break from the trials of life in France and I need these times to visit my family and friends, but by the time I return to France, I look forward to getting back to my routine of school runs, activities and cleaning.