We were supposed to leave in 5 minutes. Mr. K's loud cries and protesting yells could likely be heard down the street. The aroma of springtime blooms wafted in through our open doors, reminding us that today was supposed to be beautiful and that we were getting it all wrong. Mr. G and Mr. L were already buckled into the backseat of our practical if slightly too small family car, in anticipation of today's adventure. My partner was muttering things such as, "this is the worst. This is my nightmare," whilst shooting me looks in which the white could be visible all the way around the hazel irises of his tired eyes. I continued to speak to Mr. K as if the mood of the room did not affect me at all, even though it was upsetting me very much. I maintained an irritating sing-song voice, "this is going to be fun! Time to put on your shoes. It's alright. Would you like a new straw (friends and family will know why I would offer my child a plastic ocean death weapon as a means for soothing)."
I told my partner to calm the f**** down (it's my prerogative to use adult words when necessary) with a look showcasing the whites all around my exhausted blue irises and sent him to the car. I helped Mr. K with his shoes, wiped his tears, and gave this giant child of mine the strongest hug I could muster. He was resistant and angry but I eventually felt his body relax. Angry large people need hugs too. If you see my partner, he definitely needs more hugs. Go for it. It's worth the risk. We were once discussing how everyone always hugs at the local Canadian Diplomat gatherings. It feels like an extended family get together. My partner said, "no one hugs me." He pretended to be proud of the fact but I'm sure he was hurt inside and now will be pleased that I've written about his tender feelings.
As a rule I don't end hugs with my children or my partner, I wait for them to end them because I like to be awkward and because I never know how much that boy needs it. It often surprises me how long they will hug for. I honestly don't even enjoy hugging anyone other than the four people I live with, lest anyone think I have an unnatural hug obsession (please stay away I actually need a lot of personal space).
Just like that, we were off! Easy peasy (lies). It's not always Mr. K creating difficulty, it's often Mr. G taking too long to get dressed, crying loudly draped across the stairs like a Disney Princess, requesting that he be allowed to bring 38 toys with small losable parts in the car with us and then being completely devastated by our answer, not able to accept the fact that we won't let him finish his elaborate 20 page comic book that he is creating but is only on page 2. My partner is usually only difficult in response to a child being difficult or in anticipation of a child being difficult- you do the math. Mr. L and I are known for inconvenient toilet visits and I won't leave the house without mascara on, so we are all a huge trial to each other really. I have not even mentioned the coaxing and the planning and the hint dropping before I make a plan that must be implemented weeks beforehand.
It is definitely the most difficult for Mr. K overall because despite using visual schedules and explaining where we are going, he's never quite sure how long we will be in the car, where we will be and for how long, are we coming home afterward, and sensory overload or meltdown mode are not conducive to communication so we struggle in this area. Thank goodness for straws and Twiglets and having our own vehicle so that we are only irritating each other.
It's sobering to see when other's version of a simple outing is a big deal for us. I understand that we are living in an unrealistic realm in which people are coming and going and travelling more than I ever thought possible. Growing up, my parents would take us camping once a year, which is depressing because I love not camping so much more. We did have fun though. They also brought us to Disneyland in California twice. We drove to Anaheim. It is a 26 hour drive ONE WAY. 52 hours in the car to see Mickey Mouse is a huge commitment. The first time we went we had three kids in the back of a practical if slightly too small family car including a clunky baby seat. I realize now that this must have been a huge sacrifice. No one in their 30s has a dream of staying in a budget motel with 3 small children and eating at McDonald's every morning. Thank you Mom and Dad, for all the happy memories!
Flash forward to 2019 and I'm living a very different reality. I think that one of the reasons I like moving to different places so much is that it may have replaced travel as I do not have a family that travels very well, and we were very poor for many years. I don't regret anything, my experiences have made me grateful, which in turn has made me joyful for all my adventures. While our friends travel to Italy, Greece, Spain, Austria, France, the Netherlands, and MORE, we struggle to get out of the house for a day trip to the seaside or a castle. It only takes me 30 seconds to realize that I am living in the UK and I get to go to the seaside or a castle with my favourite people and that is AMAZING! Perspective is everything. I see my privilege in vivid colour and it makes me both uncomfortable and grateful and I am just fine with that.
One of our lovely diplomat friends suggested that I write about FOMO. Fear of missing out. Whether it be missing out on things that are happening in Canada, or missing out on all the opportunities of living on this side of the pond, which are compounded by the fact that we are here temporarily. I definitely feel both. I also feel that this is a slightly uncomfortable writing topic. I also feel up to the challenge.
My beautiful sister got married last week, and I was not able to go. I recently spoke to someone who travelled overseas for a friend's wedding that they had not seen since University, and what a "hassle" that was. And here I was, not attending my own sister's (small but still) wedding. I felt awful in that moment, but I am ever the pragmatist. We didn't have the money to spare, the timing was difficult, and the only childcare we enjoy is ourselves. In a perfect world I would have been at that wedding nestled in the family drama like a good sister and then back in time to whisk my boys off to Greece where we would inevitably get sunburned, spend too much money, sleep poorly, fight, and complain about the heat (doesn't sound that great actually). I do understand that travel with children is never a vacation. Once it's been accepted that it is an "experience," everyone might actually enjoy themselves. Lowering your expectations or erasing them completely does wonders for one's overall happiness.
I miss out on most things in Canada as we always live so far away from family. I'm not going to lie though, sometimes I love it. When one (or two at once) of our children have a birthday, we can plan one party. Make one (or two) cake(s). Do whatever the heck we want basically. We were home for my sister's birthday in August, which was magical, but I could not believe the coordination and stress of getting everyone together PLUS is that even what the birthday girl wanted or just what you do? I don't know. Then there is the comparing between the families. Which grandparents did you spend the most time with? Which sister is your favourite (definitely all 3 and they don't actually do this to me they are the best)? Can you please provide a chart to illustrate that you are being fair (I could but I won't)? Do you actually love Arizona, Scout, Tatiana, Dominique, and Joe the most (I do, who wouldn't love these cutie cats and dogs)? I enjoy our small Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving celebrations. It all suits my introverted self and my autistic son just fine thank you very much.
Perhaps it started as a coping mechanism, but I have really developed JOMO in my life. Joy of missing out is a beautiful thing. Not wanting or trying to do what everyone else is doing is freeing. I experience true JOMO when I observe friends with non stop visitors, when friends are in Venice during a flood, or there is a large stressful family event that it is not possible for me to be a part of, when I see people trying to juggle too many commitments, when I see people who are constantly at extracurricular activities with their children, when someone eats Marmite, any person at a club past 11:00 pm, people with gluten issues, anyone obsessed with diets or body image, people who own irons and use them, sports in general... I could go on and on.
The real life skill is to balance your FOMO with your JOMO. A little FOMO is good for you. Take chances and get out there. Be brave and experience new things! Bring your unruly children to a castle or a park or drive for 52 hours just so you can see their little faces light up at Disney. Make a new friend, get some fresh air, cook something new, learn a new skill. If FOMO is what gets your butt off the couch, use it. Then, when you are tired and burned out, learn to say no. Enjoy saying no. Embrace the JOMO as needed. And remember, what you are seeing on social media is someone's highlight reel. Learn to be genuinely happy for others and stop comparing their best day to your worst.
Today, we are all still in pyjamas at 11:00 am. We had a birthday party to attend that has been postponed due to high winds and rain warnings not being the best conditions for bouncy castles. I definitely felt some JOMO at the cancelled plans, plus a bit of FOMO at the thought that we should do something else amazing! Today though, I don't think we will. I've got 3 baskets stacked full of laundry to put away, the kids need haircuts, I've started defrosting some chicken for supper. The boys are watching science videos on Youtube. Simple is good. We don't need to be anywhere in 5 minutes and I will be revelling in that knowledge. I'm just going to say it, JOMO is better than FOMO. Get yourself some.