Why are your parenting practices remembered by the “worst” things you have done?
I am often aware that I will not get a mother of the year award, but sometimes as an expat mother I get pushed over my sanity limits and worry that I might get the “Worst Mother of the Year Award.” I want to share three “special” times that my mother dearest moments will stay with me forever.
I will be using the same “Jack” that I used in Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child; my children wish to remain out of these moments documented since they don’t want to have to verify how rude I did treat them. Some of these stories are from Jackie’s experiences around the world, and some are from Grant’s experiences. To make it more palatable for my children, I have made each story be about a boy called “Jack.”
As our family was relocating from Indonesia to Nigeria, we had a lot of items we wanted to have as soon as we got into our home in Lagos. As a family of four, we were traveling with 13 boxes and suitcases. Since this was a work relocation, we were flying business class, and each of us were given three suitcase allotments. That extra box, Number 13 started to cause us a lot of problems.
When the airplane staff personnel told me that Box 13 would be $1,120 to take as luggage, I could not believe it. What happened to the $200 per bag – extra fee? After a very long discussion about freight and rules, it was evident this box would be way too expensive for us to consider taking to Nigeria.
I received this box, opened it up to see what we would be throwing away. At this point in time, a few air support staff started helping me by saying “That box can hold three more pounds” and “you can put four more pounds in this suitcase.” We ended up with four items that would just not make it to Lagos.
- The small ziplock bag of dry cat food so we could feed Bailey as soon as we landed in our new foreign assignment. This bag went into my front jeans pants pocket. Not all that comfortable for me but I knew once I got on the plane it would be in the seat pocket in front of me.
- A lap size quilt that I had made that I thought would brighten up our new home. Since we were leaving Indonesia at the end of a school year when many expats are also leaving, I walked across the crowded airline terminal and gave this quilt to a coworker and wished her a pleasant summer holiday. I hope she still has it somewhere in her travels around the world.
- Two bicycle helmets. If you know me, you realize I am a stickler for brain safety and wearing a helmet was a requirement – not an option for my children. We had already sent their bikes in our air shipment, and they should be waiting for us in Lagos. My kids knew if they didn’t have their helmets, they would not get to ride their bikes.
In one of those “Mom is starting to lose it” moments, Jack took his helmet and put it on his head and walked down the attachable jetway into the airplane. As Jack buckled himself into 3A in business class, he firmly kept the helmet on and did not even make eye contact with the rest of his family. It was only after take off that he removed the helmet and put it in the overhead storage area.
We never talked about how most people flying don’t bring special head protection on the plane. We never spoke of the strange looks Jack got from fellow passengers and flight attendants. We just let this “mommy moment” go by. Now twelve years later we can finally laugh about this.
Bound to Happen
As a family of four, we are meeting up with Grandpa in the Cook Islands. We are looking forward to a week of family fun. As we watched the last bag being picked up off the baggage carousel in Rarotonga, we knew that our bags were still in the Auckland International Airport in New Zealand.
The airline gave each of us a tool kit and travel bag because the airline did not fly into Rarotonga each day. We would have to survive 48 hours without luggage. The kids are five and eight years old. Now imagine how that large white airline t-shirt fits a five-year-old or an eight-year-old as well this same size t-shirt fits my body.
These are what our family of four will be wearing for the next 48 hours.
Since it was a long trip and the hotel room was hot, everyone was very comfortable pulling off their travel clothes and going to bed. I hand washed the clothes and put them out to dry. In the morning, Jack jumped up eager to eat breakfast. The clothes were not dry. After 15 minutes of using the hair dryer, they were still not dry. Jack didn’t complain as he pulled on his white t-shirt that became a long flowing dress on his small little body. He knew as a family of four we would all be entering the restaurant to eat breakfast in our matching one size fits all white t-shirts with airline logos. Jack knew if we were not careful we might make this a ‘mommy moment’ so he bravely marched into the breakfast brunch area.
He firmly kept the t-shirt from flowing off his shoulders and not tripping on it. Jack did not even make eye contact with the rest of his family as he filled his plate full of bacon and toast.
We never talked about the strange looks Jack got from fellow diners and staff personnel. He just let this “mommy moment” go by. Now twelve years letter we can finally laugh about this. Our bags showed up before we took off for Aitutaki but we never talked about how it was to wear matching clothes. Or how it felt to wear the same size of something that Mom and Dad were wearing. Then about twelve years later after this beautiful vacation, we were able to laugh about those Christmas photos!
Legal Documents are Forever!
We need passport photos for a legal medical document, and we need them as soon as possible. From the Doctor’s office, we grab a cab and go across town to the only ‘fast photo’ location in the city. We traveled to this photo shop clear across a city we had never been to before. We hope the doctor’s office had given us the correct information and we hope the cab driver knew where we were going.
We finally found the store. As the clerk informed us that Jack could not wear a white t-shirt in the photo or it would blend in the background and the visa department would reject the pictures. We are in a government office building without any commercial stores around it. We know if we miss this opportunity, we will not get the legal document on time, and our summer would be ruined.
I look down at my black shirt and inform Jack that he would be wearing my shirt for the photo. It was starting to become a ‘mommy moment, apparently, ‘ but without a single word, Jack went with me into the photo store bathroom to switch shirts. It comes apparent that Jack could easily put on my large black shirt with a small ruffled around the collar but there was no way his tight white shirt would fit me.
I stripped off my black shirt and he put it over the top of his white t-shirt. I stayed in the bathroom in my bra while he took his photo. When he was finished he knocked on the door, handed me my shirt and walked away without saying a word.
I hope it doesn’t take twelve years for us to think this was funny. But it might because tonight, Jack reminded me that these ‘legal documents’ would be part of his life for the next four years and each time he had to deal with them he would remember this day and the events that lead us to a ‘mommy moment.’
I am sure you all have had expat mommy moments! Are you willing to share one with us?
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mollivan_jon/125377856/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/comedynose/4154079494/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/gjs/89045075/