One of the many great perks of living in a rather small foreign country that is surrounded by thousands of historical and beautiful locations is that you can see something significant and new as often as you desire. One of the downfalls of living in a rather small foreign country, as employed ex-patriates in a collapsing economy, is that it could all come to a close quicker than you can say fermer (pronounced 'fair-may'
It wouldn't surprise me if we have traveled to more French tourist sites in the past three months than a typical French family does in ten years. But, the difference is obvious. They think they have all the time in the world to go see the Eiffel Tower! I share this with you because these grand adventures are not how our family typically, "rolls" back in the United States. Before France, when living in Chicago and Colorado, we would have been pretty content to stay around the house and enjoy the local parks, activities, friends and house chores on our days off. Rarely would we plan a trip to see a new national park, monument or take a tour. Personally, the reason for my local attachment is the ease and predictability, which I find comforting with three small children. You know, less hassle in packing up the car, less concentrated amounts of whining, ability to put the kids down for naps with ease, etc... When we were living in the Chicago-area, even a road trip to St. Charles was dreaded. Obviously, we wanted to see our dear friends, but the length of the drive sometimes was not welcomed and for the same reasons mentioned above.
So what am I getting at? Good question. It took me a while to get my point myself! But here it is. I won't be the same person when I get back to the United States. Andrew, me, our children - none of us will be the same. When I say we won't be the same, I mean about life and living and the day to day. Instead of staying around home every weekend, the easiest and safest option, we as a family will be much more inclined to take more trips to go visit friends in Denver or Boulder or Steamboat, go see a tourist attraction, attend a festival in another city or state, go camping at the last minute. I laugh when I think about all the interesting things (and yes, there are some!) that I haven't seen in Indiana and Illinois after all my years of growing up in those areas. And after one year of living in Colorado, my family and I certainly could have seen more. So we have decided that when we return to the United States, we are selling our house, buying an R.V. and driving around for the rest of our lives while homeschooling the girls in the R.V. JUST KIDDING!!! No seriously, I just know we will be more adventurous and make the decision to just go instead of just stay. One thing I have learned is that if you take the steps to make the effort, you almost always never regret it.
Now, here is why I am blogging about this topic. I was trying to think of where to start, what to say about last weekends four day road trip. There certainly were some ups and downs. There were times when Andrew and I wanted to just turn around and head back home, times when we threatened the girls that we would head back home. We battle car sickness, fighting, whining, non-listeners, loud outbursts in quiet places, temper tantrums, bad manners in nice restaurants, loud hotel rooms. Any one of those things in large doses will drive parents up the wall, much less all of those things combined. But a day later, with a really bad day put behind us and a new, fresh day ahead, Andrew and I were in the front seat driving to our next adventure and reconciling our thoughts about the previous day's craziness. First we discussed the possibility that all three of our children have medical problems that have previously been missed at routine physicals. It's the only explanation for their obnoxious behavior! Then we agreed that was probably not the case so we looked for another answer. And collectively we decided that it just might be that our poor kids probably don't know up from down, right from left, wrong from right due to all the changes we constantly put them through. They don't know how to act in what situations because the situation is always changing. I can jump on the couch at home, why can't I jump on the couch in this lovely seating area at the hotel? I play tug of war with my sisters at home and the park, why can't we have a raucous tug of war with our coat in the middle of a quiet, pristine chateau? Our dinner never lasts 1.5 hours at home, how can you expect me to sit still for that long at a restaurant? This must be the case for all children but Andrew and I finally realized and their crazy behavior is not all their fault. Ella, Grace and Mia simply don't get how to modify their actions and behavior in a constantly changing environment and they become extremely frustrated with always choosing the wrong "answer". Andrew and I also realized that we spend more concentrated time together than we ever have, probably even more than most families, due to our weekend adventures of hours driving in the same car, sharing the same hotel room and eating three to five meals a day together. So we are getting a more concentrated dose of children's not-so-pretty behavior than ever before.
At the end of the day, Andrew and I came out of the weekend agreeing that we are ready to conquer yet another. Since we now understand what we think are the reasons for the kids' ill behaviors, we are now better prepared to handle these days. We'll try to prevent the issues before they occur or we'll be more patient and less frustrated knowing that maybe they just don't know what to do or how to act. And most importantly we won't let any of this prevent the whole family from continuing to see new things and go on grand adventures - in France or back in Colorado. Because in time it won't be these irritating childhood behaviors that we'll remember but rather we'll remember the beautiful castle or monstrous alabaster cliffs.
I urge you to get out there, too! You won't regret it. See sites with the family. Take an overnight trip and get a hotel room or rent a camp site that is just an hour away. Stay and enjoy your surroundings instead of rushing back home! Stay in a hotel room that isn't as nice as you would typically stay in to help you save money. If you keep yourselves going all day long, the whole family will pass out and you won't notice if the stationary says Super 8 or Hilton. Trust me, I used to be the Hilton person but now I am the whatever works person! Just in case you need some help or need motivation to plan your next family adventure, I provided some websites to get you started.
Tomorrow, look for a blog about the places we visited this past weekend and some wonderful photo's that we took.
Pictures above: Ella, Grace and Mia after their parents succeeded in wearing them out; Mia deciding she is too tired to go on so she drops to rest in the rocks; Grace, Mia and Ella getting their agressions out by throwing rocks into the water; Ella's smily face man that she made with her food (showing impeccable manners!) during our mommy daughter elegant dinner in Dieppe.