Saturday, August 14, 2010

Survival Mode

            We’ve been in Montana for three weeks now, and I haven’t found a single moment to write thoughts down. Today I’ll be leaving town on a four day canoe trip with my dad, and I’m not sure how Michelle’s going to survive without me. In fact, I’ve never seen her so stressed out in my whole life.
            We are in survival mode.
            The thought struck me when I shook the hand of a good friend of my dad’s who was passing through town with his teenage son. I was holding my squawking two-month-old as my twenty-two-month-old grabbed my leg saying, “Daddy! Come here!” in her highest pitch possible.
            My dad’s friend looked at me with one of those looks that said, “I know what you’re going through,” but he seemed so relaxed I instantly had the thought that not only had he been there, he’d gotten through and survived.
            I caught sight of a tiny glimpse of hope – the light at the end of the tunnel. We can get through this time. We just have to hold our breaths and survive it.
            Celia was in shock for the first week. She’d get to her new room at the end of a long day and say, “Where’s my room! I want home! Where are my books!”
            My heart went out to her. And when she woke up screaming three or four times a night all that week, my sleep went out to her as well.
            One of my big goals with this transition time has been to take advantage of being near the wilderness and take Celia out as much as possible. Celia is growing to love the great outdoors. On the one hand I’ve been feeling utterly exhausted, yet I’m also able to get out and take my family to a lake or for a hike.
            Every time I’m out in creation, I’m absolutely thrilled to be here. Yes, we are stressed. But we are near creation, and near all the family members who shower my kids with love.
            We’ve been eating like royalty. My dad is an exquisite, world-class chef, and every single day we have amazing meals. I find it odd to be taking all this time off, enjoying those wonderful moments, yet almost “needing” to do it, for sanity. If I don’t take the kids out, they go stir crazy. And if I don’t get out, I’ll go crazy as well.
            Yesterday Michelle decided to go get a massage after being advised that her high stress levels are giving our son bad gas, and so there I was with my young girl who was pushing every boundary, hitting her cousin on the head, pulling the more fragile items off the shelf, basically telling me non-verbally that she needed to get out of the house. And my son was whimpering and trying to nap but kept waking himself up after every few minutes (which is the worst thing on a parent, because we want them to get their rest, and it’s so painful when they can’t seem to get it).
            In a quick move of desperation I said, “Okay! Off to the beach!”
            Yes, Missoula Montana has a little beach. It’s not like Vancouver, where the beach stretches all along the ocean. It’s a little patch on the river, next to the train tracks. The last time I took her there a single train engine passed by, and it’s whistle was so loud –CHOO! CHOO! – that Celia freaked out and climbed into her stroller. I explained that it was a train, like in all the books. I said, “Choo, choo,” in a nice voice, and I could see her eyes light up with understanding. It’s one thing to read it in a book, and another to be a stone’s throw away when the whistle blows. Quite a memorable experience for a kid under two.
            So, the first thing Celia said when we arrived at the beach was, “Train!”
            I smiled, “Yes, Sweetheart. The train crosses that bridge right over there.”
            She seemed happier than at the house, and started running around on the sand. I had one moment of peace before Joshua started to wail.
            I checked his diaper. Dry.
            It’s always a bummer to me when he starts crying and it’s not the diaper, because it means he’s going to need something more difficult to give – sometimes he needs to be finagled into a new position. Sometimes he’s overly desperate for sleep. In this case, he was hungry. Which of course sucks for both of us.
            He ended up wailing for a good solid twenty minutes before Michelle and I connected. Celia surprised me by climbing into the stroller way before I asked her to. I think the crying was her signal that we’d be leaving.
            She’s been handling the stress extremely well, from my perspective. It’s hard to be living in a home that’s not your home, and right in the middle of all sorts of big changes (like a new family member, a change of country, a change of routine).
            I am happy to have my parents’ home to stay in, and I’m also eager to have my own space again. I am looking forward to having our own home, to having an office again, and to getting Celia into daycare as soon as possible.
            As I stood on the beach yesterday, I had a moment of calm. Only a moment, mind you, but enough to think – I’m in survival mode, but I’ll get through this. Life won’t be like this forever. I can do it. Enjoy what I can, and it’ll pass so quickly I’ll be amazed.
            So, that’s what I’m going to do. Hold my breath and keep swimming.

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