Thursday, June 5, 2014

THAT Mom.

I was that mom. 

I used to be dressed by 6:45am.  Actually, dressed and out the door with three mostly dressed kids in the back seat. Drop them at daycare. Go to work. Work until whenever. Get them. Come home. Feed them. Drive ALL over to the next obligation; piano, supplemental piano, fencing, gymnastics, play dates, Lego club (really there is such a thing), ballet, t-ball, soccer, swimming, trumpet lessons, softball, drama club, Friday Club, and on and on. There were entire dinners eaten in the car.  The back seat was a dressing room for kids with no time between school and the next 'thing'.  I had collapsible furniture in the trunk ready to sit and wait- wherever that was. 

Then we moved.  And not just a little move. A big, gigantic, what I have done, move. And the crazy slowly came to a stop.    

And this is what happened... I gave my kids their childhood back.  I handed the whole thing over.  Hours to do with as they please. The ability to structure their time as they see fit. Play dates weren't expected and didn't happen with the same frequency as they did in the US. Sisters became friends.   Want to play Barbies on the patio for four hours in the rain? Sure.  Want to take your scooter to go get an ice cream? Sure.  Want to go shoe shopping with the teenage equivalent of the UN?  Sure.  Want to scooter down a mountain with a friend that makes you giggle with joy?  Sure. She was still giggling even as she was telling me how it was two of them on one scooter and she had to brake so long and so hard she wore the sole of her boot out. 

I've spent years literally dragging children from one activity to the next.  Complaining when they complained: 'you are ungrateful', 'hurry up', 'other kids would love to do this',  'do you know how much this cost?'.  Believing all the while it was my mom duty, my job, to structure their time hoping they'd find their passion. At six. 

Here's the thing- I would have kept doing it. Because I thought that was what moms did.  A lot of moms do. But it was wearing me and them out. And then something interesting happened.  When left to their own devices, they found their own talents.

Lauren has a knack for languages.  Who knew?  She elected to go to Swiss gymnasium where she takes 5 out of 8 classes in German.  And French as her 'foreign' language. Her French textbook is in German.  She asked for extra German lessons on Sundays. Asked. And never complains about going.  She doesn't sulk in the car on the way home or complain about the coach.

Sam has loved computers since he was small. This year he built two functioning computers.  He joined the tennis team. I didn't even know they had a tennis team.

Caroline can scooter anywhere. She can also change buses by herself.  And she sings. In the shower. In the car. With her friends.  By herself.  On stage. Off stage. She doesn't care. She chooses her after school activities. She recently dropped the Wednesday Club (who knows what they did) and joined the Science Club. I think she's hoping for a few explosions. 

Maybe because all the crazy stopped, I was a better listener and heard what it was they wanted to do. Or maybe I was too tired to fight it anymore. But mostly, I think it was because we moved to Switzerland where people do things differently.  I don't think too many people are eating dinner in the car.  I only know of one drive thru locally.  One.  No coffee drive thru's, no ATM's, no Burger King, no Taco Bell (though, there is the drive-thru in Zurich where you order a prostitute instead of a hamburger).  People don't work 70 hour work weeks. Sundays are family days.  My car mostly stays parked in the garage.  I shop locally.  I buy what we need.  A thirty minute car ride seems really, really far now.  Kids get much shorter summers but in return many more breaks during the school year. 

Kids are expected to be far more independent.  Creative play, outdoor time, and problem solving are built into every day.  One of the local primary schools behind me, has joined forces with two other primaries.  They are all attending the same school for the week and putting on a circus for the local neighborhood- complete with a circus tent.  I have a little friend who is going to be a lion jumping through a hoop of fire and another little friend who will walk on barrels. Kindergarten is a two year affair.   First grade is still only four hours a day three days a week with two longer 'normal' days. Second grade follows the same pattern.

These years have been a gift. I know that.  I know we are lucky and not everyone has the luxury to make such a drastic life change. I am also cognizant every day, that it's got an expiration date.  I do wonder how I will take what I love here and blend it with what I love in the US.  Or whether I will slip right back into being THAT mom.  I would really rather just be Mom.







18 comments:

  1. WOW Sounds like your seachange - or Swisschange, rather - has had a lot of unexpected benefits! I find your positive attitude to embracing change and 'expanding your horizons' has worked well. All too often people get stuck in a rut with life. That's why it's nice to break it up every now and then. I think I'm due for another European gap year too...life as an expat sounds fun!
    Cheers,
    William
    NomadHead - Your Guide to Gap Year Travel

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  2. It's great that moving gave you such a change. I'm from Europe (well France) and what you were describing at first is, to me, the image of an American mum. Somehow in Europe we don't do it the same and it's great that you took it in!
    It's funny how different life can be from a place to another! Even when you think America/Europe share a kind of similar culture. Enjoy Switzerland!

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  3. Such a fantastic experience for the kids. It sounds like they (and you) have been freed by many of the pressures and expectations that abound in the US and you are all taking advantage of the opportunities. Those languages will open so many doors, glad to see you have a budding polyglot in the house!

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  4. I absolutely love posts like these, written not in a bloggish, but in a bookish style, beautiful language you have. And I'm totally proud of your kids!

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  5. The move was clearly a great decision. Being from India, I greatly admire the European way of life. About being THAT Mom though, sometimes I wish mine had pushed us slightly more than she did, because now me and my sister have a whole lot of unfinished talents. Jack of all trades, Master of none... But it seems your kids are really finding their way. Good luck :D

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  6. There is something to be said for the European quality of life! Love it.

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  7. That move has clearly done you and your family some real good! When we were kids, I used to feel sorry for my friends that had to go to every after school club, that couldn't come and play in the park with me because of dance classes or swimming school. A few classes are good for kids, I went to drama club throughout secondary school and it's a great way to make friends and learn new skills. But I was always so grateful to have so much time to spend with my family.

    My mum passed away when I was 18, and looking back I am so thankful that I had so many after school and weekend hours with her - rather than at all the clubs and sports teams that my friends were dragged to! Time together with family is equally as important as new life skills - life's too short to spend the whole thing preparing for the future!

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  8. It´s nice how you can mix both lifestyles and feel comfortable living in a completely new place (continent)! You are lucky in a sense that you can take the best of both and apply it to your life :)

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  9. What a great result! And fantastic for your kids to experience a completely different way of living.

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  10. ah your kids sound so cute! You seem like a fantastic mum :) well done you.

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  11. Great post, I'm glad your move worked out so well for you.

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  12. Sounds like an amazing change, its crazy how we get so bogged down in our 'ruts' and often don't even realise until we're taken out of the situation. However, long your next chapter lasts, i hope you enjoy every minute of it.

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  13. Great you moved to Switzerland. In Austria life for children is as great as in Switzerland. They can be kids as long as they want. I thinks it´s less stressful as in the United States.

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  14. It is insane by comparison, isn't it? Your kids will do just fine when you return, and will be much better adjusted than 97% of their classmates and friends. And they'll thank you for the experience for the rest of their lives.

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  15. I find your take on these days of childhood interesting because I've never been a parent--only a brother of six younger siblings. Your words are a window into what it would be like to one day be a parent...

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  16. I like your style of writing, its more of a life experience story rather than the normal do's and don'ts of parenting etc.....I am not a parent yet but I have a niece and nephew who I look after sometimes. They are also being brought up to express themselves in things they are interested in. They are both three and my niece loves to sing, dance and be creative and my nephew loves the outdoors and building things. But if you take them to do something like playgroups or activities they don't like it at all! I hope I'll be a parent like you!

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  17. Inspiring writing! I've never experienced one of those feelings you're talking about but I can see you're happy with your life in Switzerland. And don't think it has an expiration date if you don't let it to have. :) Keep up the good work!

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