Sunday, February 20, 2011

Parenting and Holland

Like most people, I had a vague idea of what sort of parent I hoped to be.  I formed an image in my mind of our family, of how I would handle different situations.
When I got pregnant sooner than anticipated, I knew that those images were changing, just by virtue of the situation.  I continued to form ideas, but I kept them vague.  General.
I quickly learned that the only way to parent my wayward babies with my wavering health was to take things as they came, without judgment.

I like the Holland metaphor.
Some days, I feel as if I've embarked on a journey.  I embraced the excitement.  I packed a small bag of just the essentials (patience, respect, and creativity) and set out.  I said "I'm going to Italy!"  I was so excited, I only glanced at the guidebooks.  I didn't bother to learn the language, I just accepted that I'd learn as I went.

I climbed on the train and looked out the window.  I saw tulips.  I bought quaint little clogs.  I gushed over the waterfront and windmills. I explored the shops, learning to speak Dutch through immersion.  But somewhere along the way, as I contact friends to tell them of my experiences in "Italy", I started to suspect that it wasn't Italy.  It's only in retrospect that I was given a label for the things I've observed, experienced.
And it's not Italy.
Maybe it's vacation.  It's a voyage, an adventure.  But there's no gelato, or Venice, Rome, Florence.  And there's no Colosseum hiding around the bend .
And in retrospect, I see that the times I traversed flooding railway tracks were not necessarily "normal" inconveniences.  But at the time, they were a problem...and I simply pressed through the best I could.  I've reassessed my expectations of this adventure.  But, I'm no longer certain it's Italy. 

I'm not sure if the labels I find will ever work.  After all, I still had the time of my life, and there's no going back.  No matter what I do, there will be no Colosseum, no Italian vineyards to explore.  Even if I were to miraculously manage a transfer, I'd be comparing the two visits and wondering what I was missing from the trip I first embarked on. 

I didn't really realize that there was anything all that out of the ordinary until I started hearing others gush about their Italian vacations and realized that my experience, while valid and wonderful, just doesn't quite compare.  It doesn't mean I don't enjoy my journey.  I do.  But this is where a label comes in handy.
When I complain about the pea soup, or mention the coffee hour, if I knew I was in Holland a lightbulb would go on.  But if I'm talking of Italy, the image just doesn't jive with the pasta and gelato they experienced. When I talk about the quaint cottages I stayed at, and they recall brick vineyards...well, it's hard to relate. 

We didn't all visit Italy.  I was in Holland, but I don't know the word for it, even though I learned to communicate with the people I met. 

Just like this fictional vacation; I'm raising my kids with limited labels.  I have a few...I know Penguin's a trichotillomaniac with ADD tendencies and Bumblebee...well; I know there is a label for her.  But I still don't know what it is, or if it's worth pursuing.

And then there's the food. 

The food is kind of like that elusive Colosseum.  I had a vague idea of my plans, an image of what I wanted to see.  I keep thinking it's just around the corner.  And then I remember I'm not in Italy.  And there is no Colosseum here.  But there are beautiful flowers, lovely people, and amazing views.  I'll always wonder about that Colosseum.  But I wouldn't trade these views for the Roman Empire. 

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