Monday, May 21, 2007
Reinvestigating Normal
Yes, I'm back home.

Yes, Paris was wonderful.

Yes, I had a fabulous time. No, no regrets.

Yes, my kids were happy to see me. Yes, I was happy to see them. Willem, too.

Yes, I'm still tired, but getting back into the swing of things.

I'm back at work today, which has exposed me to the same questions a number of times. Had I known there was going to be a quiz, I would have studied harder. I realize that I sound snotty and petulant here - honestly, I'm not irritated, and I appreciate that people are asking about my trip and seem happy to have me back. But, seriously, "How was Paris?" How can you possibly answer that question in a non-effusive way? It's a bit like walking into a restaurant and having a hostess greet you with, "Hi, how are you doing today?" I suppose you could get cranky and tell her that you have a head cold and a hemorrhoid and a headache, but most of us just baa our socially-expected replies so that we can go sit down and dig into our rolls, you know?

I did, indeed, miss my kids and my husband a lot. To the point that their absence did mar my trip a little, but not to the point that I wish they had come with me, if that makes any sense. I recognize just how much extra work and stress it would have been for everyone, especially the kids, if they'd come along. I can remember looking askance at one of my father's sisters, back in my pre-parenthood days, when she would take vacations without her kids. "Oh," I sniffed, "I would never want to travel without my children. Why have them if you don't want to do things with them?" And it turns out, there are lots of reasons to have them, and lots of reasons to travel without them. I don't have any desire to travel again, particularly for more than a week, without my children anytime in the near future, but jet lag and fast-paced activity levels and not a lot of kid-friendly entertainment all add together to a trip that wouldn't have been right for them... but it was right for my mother, my sisters and myself.

I remembered why it is that distance is a good thing. My mother and I get along so much better ever since I moved out of the house; I think in many ways, we're very similar, and so those areas of difference - such as, I tend to communicate in a fairly direct way in which I try to state my preferences without making demands, whereas she tends to communicate with more implications and assumptions - those can be emotional minefields, especially when you're tired and hungry.

I remembered why time is a good thing. I had time away from my immediate family to miss and appreciate them, and I was able to realize just how far my marriage has come in almost-seven years. The last time I was in Paris was just days after Willem and I got engaged, and our relationship was so new and awkward and still stumbling over a number of not-so-old hurts, and we didn't have a well-established flow of conversation yet. Now, the main reason we don't finish each other's sentences is because we both find it irritating when other people do that - but if we wanted to, we could. Makes me look forward to the next seven years, and so on.

I was surprised at how things went in my absence. Not as far as Jacob is concerned - he's a mellow little dude and tends to roll with things, right up until his sister has stolen one too many Matchbox cars and he flips out a little. But Emily was far more emotional and dramatic and unfocused and missing me than I would have expected; normally she prefers Willem in all things. But I think the combination of me being away and Willem taking on more of a disciplinarian role than he usually has left her feeling a bit adrift, like nothing was normal, parentwise, and she showed it. We'll see how long it takes her to stop acting like a Barbarian now that I'm home again. And Willem did a wonderful job - I knew he'd keep the kids alive and the house standing, but you hear so many stereotyped Mr. Mom stories that I wasn't sure what to expect beyond that. But I came home yesterday to a clean house, a stocked refrigerator, and a rearranged toddler bedroom, so any expectations I might have formed were surpassed.

So today I'm back at work, and I think that by tomorrow I should be over the worst of the jet lag. I have things to say - I did blog a little last week, but it was travelog blogging, not the randomness that is my modus operandi, so in the near future I have stuff to say about body image, and birthdays, and Grey's Anatomy and whatever else rises to the surface of my little brain.

In the meantime, I'll be over here, at the bottom of an amazing pile of blogs left unread over my week away. Me not commenting is not to be interpreted as a sign of neglect; I just only have so many minutes in a day, you know?