I wanted to improve my Spanish. Well to be honest I want to be fluent in Spanish and in ALL the languages. I’ve just always been fascinated that there are alternate ways to say something. And it kind of feels like breaking a secret code when you start to learn how to speak in a different language. I want to be able to teach German and Spanish, but my Spanish was fossilized somewhere in the third semester of college Spanish range. It’s scary and intimidating to say your goals out loud because then people know what your goal is and will notice whether you make it or fail. So now you know. Don’t keep tabs on how long it takes me, Ok? My biggest supporter, my husband and Daddy Of The Year, gave me the thumbs up on heading off to Madrid for ten days of Language School. The cherry on top was adding three days in Norway as a 40th birthday present to myself!
For two weeks I was off doing my own thing in Europe while Chris was packing lunches, popping waffles in the toaster, and loading kids and backpacks in the car by 7:30am to get the girls to school each day before heading to work to teach 900 college kids. And then shuttling our littles to all of their after school activities. … while I was stopping at a café for a coffee after my classes in Madrid or browsing the many levels of the El Corte Inglés department store. I saw every inch of that place, including the restaurant on the sixth floor. (The potatoes with eggs and ham were very satisfying. So was the cheesecake.)
Seriously. I was living the dream! Or the bizarro world. I felt like I was twenty years old again. No kids constantly arguing to referee, no husband to compromise on the when/where/what food will be eaten. I could make my own decisions and implement them immediately!
There were certainly moments of loneliness and anxiety though. For instance, I spent the better part of an hour figuring out which of my six keys got me into the four separate doors to my apartment building. And some keys turned right while others turned left. I thought if I left my apartment without practicing each door at least three times, I might not ever make it back INTO the apartment! So backwards I went, testing each door with its corresponding key and trying not to look foolish pushing on a pull door or vice versa.
In contrast to Madrid where I was slowly but steadily working toward my goal of improving my Spanish grammar (even while sight-seeing, shopping, reading Junie B. Jones in español, eating churros, and drinking with the locals,) when I got to Bergen, Norway, it was just sightseeing playtime! I hadn’t done a trip like that on my own since I was twenty-one. I truly felt like the old me – a little scared but excited to see new sights on my own. After being married for fifteen years and accustomed to the comfort of the secure feeling of someone living in the same house, it was nice to know that I could stay in a hotel (not to mention the six-key apartment!) and not actually need the T.V. as company to ease my mind before falling asleep.
As I sat on the hilltop park and enjoyed the view of Bergen all around me on a beautifully sunny day, I appreciated the time away from my family to take this trip and enjoy the absence of sibling rivalry. But I also wished they were on the boat ride with me into the Fjord. I ALSO knew that I needed to brace myself for re-entry into the real world when I got home. I know my kids will fight; I want to ignore just the right amount of the arguing so that it doesn’t bother me or stress me out. Which is probably why the little bar in the Bergen Harbor was one of my favorite places of my trip. I ate dinner alone (which I didn’t mind on day twelve; by day fourteen I was pretty over it) and had two beers with dinner to summon the courage to enter the bar on my own. I entered as the guitarist was singing American Pie and he continued with dozens of songs that everybody knew and mouthed the words too, including Red, Red, Wine which was Neil’s song first, so I was a happy girl. A Norwegian couple came and asked if there was room at the table and of course I said yes. We drank and chatted. I learned how to say cinnamon roll in Norwegian. Well I didn’t learn how to say it, but I joyfully listened to it’s pronunciation about five or six times. I walked a few hundred yards to my hotel with a slight hint of light in the 3:00 am sky. I definitely felt twenty again. I did the next day, too, when I stared at my breakfast and contemplated if I needed to eat or just hydrate. Hangover included, it felt good to feel twenty for a few days.
But I’m back in Georgia now! It felt so good squeezing my family when we reunited! It feels good to have my Mom Shoes back on, despite the daily struggles that I know it entails.
The back to normal part is becoming pretty clear. Chris wanted to be helpful before he left for work, so he woke up the kids at 7:30. Last I checked, it is still summer and I would’ve been really content eating my bacon and drinking my coffee in his absence with the kids still lying quietly in their beds! Instead, I walked in from my run to the Golden Pantry to children being hauled down the stairs with sleep in their eyes. Then they sit at the kitchen table and look at me like puppies expecting their bowls to be filled with puppy chow. I stood in the cross-fire of voices streaming back and forth over my head “Do you want a waffle?” “I’m hungry” … And then I tried to lovingly kick my husband out of the house so that I could eliminate just one of the four voices bouncing off the kitchen cabinets.
Next I looked at my bed-head children (with adorable “cheerleader ponytails done by their babysitter,) pointed at each one and reminded them, “You are nine years old. You are six years old. There is the kitchen. Go fix your own breakfast.” Then I walked away saying “I’ll check on you in five minutes.” During the next four minutes and fifty-nine seconds I heard a new round of cross fire – “idiot! Butt! Dumb idiot! Mean butt!”
Yes, this was the Re-Entry to my Mom Life that I was fearing. But it wasn’t as painful as the image I had in my head. I stood stock still and stared them down. “One more “butt” or “idiot” out of either of you and you go straight to your room. Understand?” They nodded. Smart mouth older sister tested me. “I-d-…” “Want to finish that word and spend the rest of the day in your room? Or do you want to eat your waffle?” I tried my best Mom Glare, still not moving a muscle in this mom-to-kid face off. She bit into her Nutella-smeared waffle. I turned on my heel and walked away with a grand feeling of victory.
But I can’t get too cocky. I’m sure the next battle will be waiting for me just around the corner. And the next time I need a break from the arguing, I can lock myself in my closet and quietly remember my sunny spot on the hill over-looking the beautiful scenery of Bergen as I slide off my Mom Shoes to ignore the cross-fire for another quick four minutes and fifty-nine seconds.