This week I've started to feel really batty about the temporary living arrangements that come with travel. I REALLY miss the ease of taking care of the kids in my own home.
The last time we visited Germany, we were a family of four (not five). We stayed for two weeks. Both Fritz and I felt it was not long enough. This time, we will be traveling (mostly in Germany) for 4 weeks. Here is the breakdown of our schedule:
3 days in Hannover (Germany)
7 days in Juist (Germany)
2 days with Oma (Germany)
3 days with friends in Aalen (Germany)
10 days with Oma (Germany)
2 days in countryside (Iceland)
2 days in Reykjavík (Iceland)
Fritz has the feeling it is the perfect length and that we paced ourselves just right. We are currently on day 7 of the 10 days with Oma. I feel like it's been a little too much time here.
The difference might be attributable to the fact that Fritz has family responsibilities to take care of while we are here with Oma. Most of those don't involve the kids and I, leaving us at loose ends. The kids are done with being in the car taking day trips. They've thoroughly traumatized Oma's fish in the pond in the yard. They're done spying on the downstairs tenant. They're craving the independence of home, but the playground is too far away to walk to alone. Noah whispers to me at night that he misses his friends. And they haven't found any neighborhood friends. They've unfortunately damaged and destroyed several adult things in Oma's house. And they're super bored. Well, Trixie is less bored. Both Noah and Mattias are quite bored. They're being fed a constant diet of sugar, of which I don't approve one bit but I have to decide between constantly fighting the host and just trying to relax and be "on vacation;" so I guess I'm conceding defeat, because who wants to spend their vacation fighting the host? Ice cream for breakfast? Sure! Why not?
I'm going to draw two conclusions:
1) One week with Oma is enough for the kids.
2) Maybe next time, Fritz should come early and spend some time here, doing whatever it is that needs to be done, while the rest of us arrive later. In the last few years, it's been very difficult for me to be alone for multiple days with the kids, so this wasn't an option. But as they get older, it's getting easier. So maybe more frequent solo trips to Germany for Fritz are in order.
Fritz doesn't want to draw any conclusions, because, he says, each time we come the kids are different ages and their needs have changed, so who knows? There's some wisdom to this perspective. Right now, Noah (8) is interested in going on tours, but Mattias (5) whines a lot about the walking and paying attention and riding in the car to get to places. Trixie (2) is happy to explore the house in her toddler-curious way, but still needs an afternoon nap (preferably not in the car seat/stroller); the boys need to run and play in large areas throughout the day.
I think we can still look at where Noah is now and have some ideas about what might work better when Mattias and Trixie are older. Primary in my mind is the question of their growing independence. To what extent does taking elementary school age children away from their friends take away their independence as well? It's really clear to me that Trixie needs mostly just her family and as long as they are by her side, she is content. But it's different for Noah. He's spent more time mourning the last days of school (that he missed) and his classmates. He's not really old enough to go off exploring on his own - I'm not ready to put him a plane and fly him across the country, or let him take a train to a nearby town – and I don't think he's ready for that kind of independence, either. But he is ready to bike around the block with his friends. He's ready to walk to the neighbor and see if the neighbor can play. He might even be ready to go over to the playground and meet someone there. That's the kind of independence he needs. It's also the kind of independence that we're missing on this trip. And it feels really apparent the longer we sit still in one place.