1000 days

It recently occurred to me (because these are the things that my brain runs in the background during diaper changes) that we must be coming up on our 1000th day of this adventure, and, in fact, when I looked it up, it turns out that New Year’s Eve of this year will be our 1000th day here.  (Pretty neat.  Happy New Year!  Happy 1000 days!  Woo hoo!  Also, we won’t actually be here — we’ll be “celebrating” our 1000th day while home in the US for the holidays, which is a little ironic.)  That’s quite a milestone, especially because when we first left to come here, I expected that we’d be home in 1-2 years.

1000 days is not quite 1/13 of my life so far, or, thought of another way, it is very nearly equivalent to all of the Februaries I’ve lived thus far.  That’s a lot of time.  If I imagine that instead of having lived here for the past 2.5+ years, I had spent every February of my life living in Austria, it makes it easier to see what a profound effect this adventure has had on me.  On all of us.  For the kids, who have spent roughly 55% and 85% of their lives here, the impact is naturally even more significant.  (Liam lived in the US for only 191 days before we left.  Wow.  I’d never done that math before.)  No wonder we feel so connected with this place.  No wonder we feel so changed by this experience.  No wonder that it feels like we’ve been gone for so long — we have been.

The end of an era

So, this is it — my last day for a while at home with both of my boys (not counting weekends, holidays, sick days or vacation . . . and then, of course, once we’re back in the US, Liam will probably be back at home with me again while B starts elementary school).  I know it’s true of life in general, but I feel like it’s even more true since I’ve become a parent — as soon as I get comfortable with a routine, it’s time to change everything and start again.  And that’s what this will be like.  Nearly my entire life here in Austria has been ruled by the routine of B going to school and Liam being home with me.  It’s my only point of reference, it’s the only way I know how to frame my experiences here.  This Monday, things change.

And, although this particular set of circumstances is brand new, I’ve been through enough changes to know that this, too, will come with unforeseen challenges and unexpected happiness.  I’m sad and worried to send my “baby” off to preschool (He’s so little!  He doesn’t speak the language!  How can he be away from me?!?) but I know he’ll be fine.  We’ll weather the challenges that come up, and help him through.  He’ll grow and learn and be awesome.  And B (How can he be in Vorschule already?!?  He doesn’t really speak German!  What is he missing by not being in the States and having a “normal” kindergarten year?!?) is set to be a star.  He told us at dinner last night that with all the stuff he’s going to learn this year, he’s “going to be a German machine!”  Indeed.

Life goes on, and as it does, it changes.  If there is one thing I’ve learned is that joy can be found in every new situation.  It’s a choice, to be happy, to set worry aside, to not go looking for strife, but to choose peace.  So today, on this last day of this routine, of this particular chapter in raising my kids, I’m choosing to enjoy this moment and to face what comes next with enthusiasm.  Monday is a big day, but right now, I am so grateful for THIS day, and I feel so fortunate for the 5 years I’ve spent at home with my boys.  Life is so good.

Big boy bed

Last night, Benjamin asked if we could change his crib into a “big boy bed”.  I was surprised to hear it — it’s not something we’ve advocated for and I wasn’t sure he’d even been paying attention the couple of times we had explained to him, months ago, that his bed converts into a “big boy” bed and that he should tell us when he wants us to do it.  (When will I learn?  This kid is ALWAYS listening.)

Also, Benjamin has not been in a hurry to grow up — especially since Liam’s arrival.  After a brief initial interest in potty training, he doesn’t want to have anything to do with it.  We’ve cut him back to 2-3 bottles a day, and he will drink milk from a cup, but we haven’t made many strides in moving away from bottles, either.  And he’s been reluctant to embrace the separation of school (although this week he did seem happier about going and less enthusiastic to leave).  So, I figured that moving out of his crib would go in the same category, and that it would be a while until he decided it was time.

I should have figured, though.  During our move and transition here, he slept in several “big” beds — a twin bed at my mom’s house before we left, another in our first apartment here, the couch at the second apartment we had here, and a twin bed mattress on the floor when we first moved in here.  And, we’ve had a few “sleep overs” on the futon in the living room.  So, the concept isn’t foreign to him.

Our plan is to change it tomorrow.  For now, a “big boy” bed means changing his crib into a toddler bed.  It’ll still be small, but he’ll be able to get in and out on his own.  It’ll be easier to give him a pre-bed snuggle, and I won’t miss lifting him in and out of the crib twice a day, every day.

I’m also a little sad, though, and a little anxious.  It’s been comforting to know, when I put him down for the night, that he’ll be there in the morning.  I haven’t had to worry about him getting up and playing in the middle of the night, wandering through the house, getting in to stuff while we’re sleeping, waking Liam up, or any other variety of nocturnal mayhem.  Yikes.

I used to say that I’d leave the video monitor in his room hooked up until he was in his “big boy” bed and could come and get us when he needs us.  Not a chance.  I’m keeping that thing set up for the time being.

I wonder how long it’ll take him to figure out he can unplug it.  Yet again, life as I know it, is over.

Tomorrow, everything changes

For over three years, I’ve been a “stay at home” mom.  Tomorrow, for the first time, one of my children will be in daycare.  Sure, it’s more appropriately preschool (kindergarten, here) than daycare, and it’s only 4 hours a day, but it doesn’t change the reality of it.  Benjamin starts school tomorrow.  It’s not like I’ve been with them both 24/7 since their births:  I did work a few hours a week at home, I go out and do things from time to time, I even came to Austria for 4 days when Benjamin was only 18 months old, and, of course, I was in the hospital when Liam was born (and for days after, since he was in the NICU) — and thus, away from Benjamin.

This feels so different.  For 50% of his waking hours, five days a week, he will be in someone else’s care.  That “someone else” isn’t my mom, or Dan, or a trusted friend.  It isn’t for an hour, or for a special occasion.  These people are strangers to us (although I know they won’t be for long) and this will be our every day routine.  My baby is leaving the nest for the first time — he goes out in to the world to interact with its other inhabitants without my constant supervision.  He will experience things I’ve protected him from and the flaws in my parenting will be exposed.  The other kids may not be nice to him all the time, he may experience the pain of being left out, not liked or teased.  Whatever manners and good behavior he has managed to pick up will show, as will the places I’ve not quite armed him with enough.

I know that this is just preschool, and that he isn’t expected to be perfectly polite or well behaved all the time.  I also know that the hurts he receives from his classmates will not only be impermanent, but also come with important life lessons better to be learned at the age of 3 than at a later time.  Mostly, it’s going to be a place for him to play and interact with kids his own age (which he’s been dying to do) and to learn German — I think that by the end of September, if not sooner, he’ll be the best German speaker in the house.

But still, he’s my baby, and I don’t think I’m ready to let go, even in this little way.  But, I will, because it’s what is right for him.  The good parts of this, as well as the challenges, are important for his journey in life.  As with pretty much everything having to do with raising children, this just isn’t about me.  (If he hates it, though, I’m bringing him straight home.  Just saying.)