Last Thursday was a long day. Flying from Europe is easier than the other way round, but only to the extent that instead of feeling like being up in the middle of the night you feel like your day is never going to end. This wouldn't be so bad if that day happened to be a fun one, but flying with two small kids for 8 hours and then riding in the car with them for a few more does not make for a whole lot of relaxing entertainment. While Ivan was trying to find yet another way to climb his way out of my arms into the front seat, pulling my shirt and hair I caught a glimpse of the other passengers... sitting still, yawning, being oh, so bored! They had read all their magazines, had picked around their food and left half of their coffee in their cup, which was also sitting quietly on their tray not in any danger to be spilled into their lap any minute. I tried to remember the times when this scenario was what I dreaded when thinking of a long flight. Fool I was. What was that like? I cannot remember for the life of me. Eight hours of sitting still, fed up with reading and conversation! I allowed myself a few moments of self-pity. When did all of the mundane situations in my life become hard work?
Well, we all made it home fine. The kids were exhausted in every way. We had two weeks packed with every family activity we could fit in. It was one highlight after another especially for Veronika and even though I'm sure she enjoyed every minute of it, there is such a thing as too much even with positive emotions. It was time to come home. Nevertheless saying goodbye was tough, because nothing we did was more than normal things you would do with your family: go shopping, go for a walk, celebrate a birthday, play with your cousins. Why could we not have this at home?
When I was putting Veronika down that night she said: "I want to go back on the airplane. I want to go back to Baka and Deda. I don't wanna go to preschool." Putting up my parental I-know-what-I'm-talking-about-face I said: "It's nice at Baka and Deda's, huh? It's sad we had to leave. But we will go again. Until then we have a lot of things to do though. We will have Easter and color the eggs and then it's going to get warmer and we'll go to the park and swimming and we have to play with Drew and Emma and Ellie and then we will celebrate your birthday..." Her expression was still the same, a little worried, serious. Then she said "I wanna go. I wanna go to preschool. I don't want to go on the airplane again." And just like that she summed up all those terribly conflicting feelings. I almost wanted to say: You're right. That's just how it is. One minute you want to go back, the other you want to be home. You feel both things at the same time. It's exhausting and there's no real fix. I'm saving that for when she's older, because I know she will be revisiting those feelings on a regular basis.
While we were in Austria, we got to take Veronika to a live performance of an Austrian children's song writer whose CDs she's been listening to for years. She started out excited and intrigued, trying to keep up with singing and moving along, but with time she got more and more quiet and by the end of the concert declared she wanted to go home... to Danbury. That was the only time during the trip where she specified where she wanted to go home to and my heart was breaking a little bit because I could so clearly see what it was all about. Welcome to the world of the split identity, baby, of you heart always partially somewhere else, of constant confusion of belonging. There were all these little kids just like her, singing songs she knew, but she also clearly felt they were part of a different world. They didn't go to preschool with Ms Kelly, they didn't speak English and they had a whole "thing" she was not directly part of.
Like a good mother I immediately felt guilty. It is my fault for putting her in this situation! That train of thought has a very unsatisfactory ending though... should I not have married her father? I wish there was a way for me to handle this for her, emotionally, but there isn't. I was surprised how hard it was to sit on my hands, because I know this is where her life starts and she has to grow through it herself. I will tell her eventually that it's hard to be the odd one out either way you go, to be permanently split because you have two perfect identities in two countries I will also tell her how great it is and totally worth it, but all of this will have to wait for some time and it will involve a lot of me watching her and fretting and fretting.
I know for myself I don't regret anything. I don't feel like I was disadvantaged at all, but I know some feelings will always come and there will always be goodbyes and as much as one makes peace with it, they will hurt. We'll just have to take it a step at a time, her living her life and me watching (while slowly spiraling into insanity).