September 21, 2011
OK, I assume some of you have been reading this blog in the way that the average NASCAR fan watches a race - you might like the race, but you are kinda hoping for a crash.
You have assumed that a crazy group of 6 with 3 teens and a 10 year-old cannot possibly travel happily through Europe in harmony. You have speculated that long days, odd schedules, close proximity and multitudinous educational opportunities cannot result in familial peace.
You are not far off.
Actually, there is more harmony than you might suspect, But perfect harmony is unrealistic. I thought I would share a few of our less than ideal moments.
Today, we saw some extra tension. As camp directors, we recognize Cabin Fever. If a session at camp has excessive rain and campers must stay in cabins for 3 or more days, interpersonal tensions can reach a fever pitch. [Note to Texans - there are written accounts of “rain” disrupting summer camp for weeks at a time. This is an odd an confusing concept to us. Simply accept that it happens , generally in places other than Texas.]
Everyone is convinced that he or she has done more than his or her share of whatever task we assign them. The nature of the task is irrelevant - the others have not done as much as I have. For other parents, you recognize this as the Injustice Imperative.
We know that Liam and Virginia are like a spark and gasoline, but when everyone else is rested and happy, the other kiddos are like wet wood - sparks have no effect. But add long days with reduced sleep and suddenly Terrill and Wiley transform from wet wood to dry kindling. This is when we have extra excitement.
“Liam stood in my path on PURPOSE?”
“Wiley needs to clean more dishes.”
“I know Terrill took the clothes off the line, but that is a FUN job. She should help me now.”
“Please stop correcting our grammar.” (In case you have not guessed, this is anyone directed at us.)
We had 15-20 minute intervals while walking when certain kids would not walk within twenty feet of each other. You parents know this act of passive resistance.
Me? I try to care about these minor injustices, but cannot really bring myself to so so. I know that the gang is tired and struggling for perfect equity, but Susie and I are also giving 100%+ and would love to see them benchmark their efforts against Susie rather than each other. Nevertheless, the tasks get done and we move on.
As I think about it, this is really nothing to write about. We actually travel remarkably well. Think about this - we have 4 kids ages 10-14 traveling with their 40-something parents. It is noteworthy to me that I am writing about tension only now, after almost 4.5 weeks.
But the discord did not last long. In fact, hen we returned after a day of seeing a great view of Barcelona and visiting the Miro museum, Susie came to the apartment with just Wiley and Virginia. Liam and Terrill went shopping for dinner with me. By the way, Liam and Terrill were great helpers. We found an open market with 20+ stalls (meat, produce, dairy, bread, etc). They then each took parts of the shipping list and used their Spanish skills to get what we needed. I, on the other hand, continued to use my International Pointing Skills to get my part of the list.
Meanwhile, Susie was back in the apartment with Wiley and Virginia. They soon realized that there was a limited amount of chocolate milk in the fridge. Wiley insisted that Virginia get it. Virginia wanted Wiley to have it all.
Susie watched and swelled with pride. “My children are loving and sharing - how wonderful!” She watched as Wiley absolutely insisted that Virginia get the milk.
Oh wait, I forgotten an important data point - Virginia might have had hives today.
Still not clear, let me explain.
At breakfast, the kids ate a little chocolate with their eggs (I know- yummy!!). After eating, Virginia had what we thought was a a mosquito bite. We did not worry. After the Miro museum, we had a snack with chocolate cake. After the snack, Virginia had over 10 hives. Could the earlier mosquito bite have been a hive as well? We wondered. We worried.
Could she be developing an allergy to chocolate? I do not even want to think of the existential ramifications if this is true. Virginia is truly her grandmother’s child, a choco-holic. Yet there we were, looking at hives.
[Note to the concerned reader - the story ends OK. We are still not sure if Virginia is allergic, but we are focused on making sure everyone is OK. There are aspects of a story that are best held back for dramatic effect, but a major allergic reaction is not one of them.]
We spent over an hour walking around the Olympic Village (1992 - the first “Dream Team” basketball team) with Susie wondering about Virginia’s allergic condition. Sure, she has never had trouble with chocolate in the past. Of course, there might be allergens that we have not encountered before. Was something else in that cake? Nevertheless, her youngest was having an allergic reaction. We had to rest. We needed to walk much more slowly. We gave Virginia some Benedryl and watched her.
When we got to the apartment, Susie asked that I shop with Liam and Terrill while she and Wiley watched Virginia. Her Benedryl was in full force, so she was sleepy. But they wanted a snack first.
This led to the heart-warming incident during which both children were insisting that the other child get the lion’s share of the chocolate milk Why interfere? Susie was an odd mixture - exhausted from the long day and proud of the harmony.
She, however, did not catch the key adjective.
As Virginia was drinking, the concerned part of Susie overtook the part that was celebrating the harmony. If Virginia is allergic to chocolate - she needed to be diligent. She put the now exhausted Virginia down in our bed and watched her like a hawk.
After she arose (hive-free) from her nap, Virginia said something about spilling lots of bathroom soap on her hands as she washed up at the museum. We are guessing that this is the source of the hives, but none of this changes the amusement of the kids about our worrying.
We are all to bed now and no hives darken out evening. Susie is aghast that she missed this. I point out the most moms cannot recreate avery bite in their children’s mouth, but she remains harder on herself than I would like. Nevertheless, I am delighted that I have a partner that is so concerned and diligent with our children!