Groundhog Days

January 25, 2016

islandI can’t believe it’s almost the end of January.   Christmas feels like a distant memory. Al took two weeks off in December. We had good quality family time but he didn’t return to work as relaxed and raring to go as he would have liked. I know he craved the light, zenned feeling of someone who had spent the break lying on a lilo in a swimming pool while sipping a pina colada and stirring the water with their feet. Poor chap, but that kind of mental and physical abandonment won’t happen for the next few years.

Al said that after the two weeks on holiday as a stay-at-home dad, he now understands why I ring him and ask, ‘where the hell are you?’ at 18h33, when he is three minutes late and not home at the expected 18h30 on the dot. Kids are delightful but full time parenting is intense, no doubt about that.

We are back in our routine again, hooray. Megan returned to playgroup and I took a photo of her dressed up in her favourite ensemble – her swimming costume and mismatching socks – before she set off for her first day:

Meggie costume

I’ve said over and over that parenting is full of paradoxes. January has gone by quickly but then again, it also hasn’t. Time flies, but it also doesn’t.  Al has worked every weekend, which has been intense. This past week we all suffered from gastro. It didn’t reduce the children’s energy but simply redistributed it into incessant whining, like a constant low hum in my ear that tested the limits of my patience.

For the first two weeks of 2016, it rained nonstop. It was like I was back in the UK. Every day felt like Groundhog Day. I woke up, opened the curtains, saw the grey and the rain AGAIN and wondered what on earth I could organise to keep us entertained. Rainy days feel so looooooooong.

I know I complain a lot about the weather. It’s too wet, too cold, too snowy, too grey, too foggy, too hot or too windy. I feel like Goldilocks. I love Switzerland but it is an outdoorsy kind of place and there is not much to do with exuberant toddlers when the weather is grim. Every rainy day we’ve mostly hung about, trapped in the house like pinned butterflies.

I am an introvert and I love my home. I don’t mind chilling within my four walls, with just me and my poppets. But there are only so many banana muffins I can make and puzzles I can do over and over before I go stir crazy. When the house develops that thick, warm, stale aroma of a becalmed submarine, I have to GET OUT THE HOUSE NOW OR ELSE.

A little bird_front panel boxes_rainy days (2)The challenge is that on rainy days, there is nowhere to go. Go to the library, I hear you say. But my local one is marginally bigger than a cupboard. There are no indoor soft play options. It’s too cold for parks. The indoor swimming pool only opens at the awkward hour of 16h00 every day.

When the weather clears, I always attempt a walk so we can profit (as the French say) from the fresh air. We spend about 30 minutes putting on the winter gear and usually, shortly after we have left the house, one of the girls begins to weep. When we walk we rarely get beyond the end of the road.

Go to a friend, you may suggest. I do but I don’t have as many options as I would like. My neighbour pointed out that local, French-speaking people work. Friendships in expat circles ebb and flow. One minute it feels as if you have a new best friend and then, the next minute, you don’t. People in the international crowd are often away or they have visitors or they work. Or, they aren’t available because they are pregnant and incapacitated by morning sickness or they’ve quarantined themselves owing to sniffles and other seasonal illnesses. Many have older children with busier schedules or they have different routines to me and are up for a playdate around 16h30 when we are winding down to dinner time.

For me, the advantage of living close to family is not so much for the help but the company. I would love to spontaneously ring my mom and say, ‘Yo! Wassup! Come hang with me!’ I love my life and I am not lonely in a negative, slit-my-wrists way but I long for more buddies on tap.

I sometimes go to the mall and Megan loves the pay-by-the-hour crèche there. You have to be over three to attend so Jessica and I shop or wander about. I let Jessica loose and she then goosesteps at high speed or toddles in zig zags from one end of the mall to the other, crashing into shoppers and then pointing and shouting at random intervals like an intoxicated sailor. I can’t let her out of my sight for a second or else she will disappear, as you will understand from the video below:

I’ve met Al for lunch a few times but the chaos involved in taking children to restaurants agitates our square, black-and-white, accountant-like sensibilities. We can only manage a quick coffee in a cafe and even then I have to down it in one go like a shot of tequila or else the table ends up like this:

Coffee

Recently we had Sunday lunch at a friend’s place. They invited another couple with two children the same age as Megan and Jessica. Al put Frozen on the iPad and the children watched it for about half an hour. The dad remarked to his daughter that it was probably the most TV she had ever watched. Al and I looked at each other and mouthed, ‘WTF?!?!’ Whenever someone says they don’t allow their kids to watch TV, I guarantee you that those people work full time or have household help such as au pairs or nannies.

child-watching-TV-illustPeople say TV destroys imagination and creativity. It depends on what you watch, I suppose. I watched plenty TV as a child and I still find it dead easy to float up with the fairies. My favourite way to relax, particularly as a teenager, was to lie on my bed, stare at the ceiling with my hands folded on my chest (as if I was in a coffin) and daydream. TV did nothing to diminish my overactive imagination.

I can’t survive without the TV, especially in miserable weather. Many of my friends keep it on permanently as background noise and extra company. I hate that but I am grateful I can use TV to anesthetize and distract my girls when I need to make a phonecall, clean up or cook a decent healthy meal from scratch.

I’ve just reread this post. Am I a moaner or what? Woe is me! I don’t work and I get to spend all day with two precious children. Entertaining them on rainy days is like fretting that you’ve won the lottery and don’t know what to do with the money – it is not a real problem.