"Today Noah bought a stuffed animal and a microscope at the museum gift shop, which seemed like a fitting way to capture the two worlds we're all straddling right now."

"Today Noah bought a stuffed animal and a microscope at the museum gift shop, which seemed like a fitting way to capture the two worlds we're all straddling right now."

From Tears to Tears

Last week I was having a conversation with dear friends (known here as Jam & Jelly) who were reminiscing about the beginning of their expat journey in Sankt Wendel, Germany. What they found upon arrival was a non-stop barrage of emotional polar extremes: one minute they were overhearing heavenly choirs welcoming them to their new world[1]; the next they were thrust into a hellish reality where, unable to speak the language, the likelihood of buying bread at the local grocer made starving seem like the inevitable alternative.

The conversation was timely, as I found myself on the tail end of a similar roller coaster. Two weekends ago Marisa and I took Noah to London for his 11-year-old trip[2]. The morning of departure, I woke up on the verge of tears brought on by what I perceived as an insurmountable five days: Three days in London with Noah, then back to France to take a grueling 2.5 hour finance exam for my MBA, then fly out to Germany immediately following the exam, then train and automobile my way through Western Germany to then finally arrive and depart from Luxembourg to get home. Imagine one of those Indiana Jones map animations but that ends up looking like ugly spaghetti in the end and that was my itinerary.

During the London leg with Noah and Marisa I was on top of the world, filled with a renewed sense of gratitude and awe at the responsibility of parenthood. 11 years ago Marisa and I were brand new at this with no idea what to do with a child. We simultaneously loved beyond any capacity previously registered in our hearts and were terrified of what to do (or not do) with this new being. With every glance at Noah in London, a startling reality stared back at me: “we’re past our halfway mark of being full-time parents with him!” It left my heart brimming over with immense joy and anticipation for the man he will become; yet there were multiple times during the three days when I held back tears trying to squeeze on tight to the innocence that is so characteristic of my little boy.

With the rest of the trip came the lows and loop-de-loops that I’ve learned come standard with my business travel: cancelled flights, late-night check-ins, and plenty of mediocre, non-Marisa cooked food. Sure enough, by the time I stumbled out of my rental car and into my MBA courses on day five I was again on the verge of tears of exhaustion, physical, mental, and emotional.

The experience made me realize both how unique and foreign this will all seem someday. The idea of roller-coastering around Western Europe squirting a trail of tears behind me seems silly even as I type it, but it’s a reality I’m willing to embrace and share because one day, just like baby Noah, it will be a reference point; a dot on my lifeline that can bring both an immense sense of gratitude or regret, depending on how I choose to live it today.

Little Frenchie Fluency

It’s great to have points of reference when learning a new skill, like juggling with fire, synchronized swimming, or even speaking French. With the latter in mind, here’s video of the #littlefrenchiesmurfs on Month 1 & Month 9 saying a few phrases in their mother-from-another-brother-tongue:

Noah Month 1

Noah Month 9

Sammy Month 1

Sammy Month 9

Oliver Month 1

Oliver Month 9

Eliot Month 1

Eliot Month 9

Just goes to show what exiling your kids to the French countryside and forcing them to live a “Little Ouse on zee Praireee”- esque experience can do for their future high-school AP French grades (assuming they improve past saying "hello" and "my name is...")… 

[1] Singing 99 Luftballons, of course

[2] For those of you unfamiliar with 11-year-old trips, here is the basic gist: “Go have dedicated one-on-one vacation time with your preteen before puberty hits them, they go wacko, and hate your guts a lot for a while.”