Yesterday was the 4th anniversary of my daughter Avalon’s birth and death. I had a wicked stomach bug and therefore did nothing… didn’t go to the cemetery, didn’t blog. I did spare a few moments, though, to really think about who this little girl might have been. I honestly can’t imagine having a different child than the one I already have. I couldn’t have them both, either, as M’s due date was in mid-March, and Avalon’s was May 7th. It was always going to be one or the other, there is no scenario in which they’d both exist, simultaneously, with me as their mother, or as sisters. And so I find that my grief for the deceased daughter is tangled up in my overwhelming love and gratitude for the existing one. It always begs the question: how can I wish that she had not died, without wishing my daughter M away?
That’s not even why I decided to blog tonight. I wanted to write about all of the ambivalence I’m having about traveling. The most comforting thought, to me, is the money. I need it. I’m not making ends meet as things are, so something has to change. There’s no way around that. But after a teacher’s conference today, a Christmas concert, and after much reflection on what went wrong in Nepal, I’m starting to think that constant moving is not in M’s best interest.
You see, she has two teachers, both of whom she adores, especially her lead teacher Debra. Debra is a traditional Montessori teacher, firm but never raising her voice, strict but loving at the same time. M hugs Debra when she arrives in the morning, and talks about Debra and her other teacher all the time. At our conference today, when Debra heard we’d be coming back to Michigan in April, she practically insisted that M come back to her classroom there, even after 3 months of absence. She said it, “made my day!” to think that M might be back, even if just for the last 6 weeks of school. What could I say to that? The obvious love that they both have for each other is such a wonderful influence on M. She feels safe and secure in that classroom, which means she is open to learning and exploring and growing.
And then her friends, oh her friends. According to Debra, M is one popular kid in the class these days. The other girls compete to do their “work” (this means activities in Montessori-world) with M, which sometimes results in arguments and chaos. Unsurprisingly (to me), being social is the most important thing to my little girl. She can work independently for 10-15 minutes at a time, but much prefers to work with a friend or friends. She has a few super special friends, and she loves knowing that she’s going to see them and play with the every day. She knows the names of every kid in the class, all 22 of them, and recites them all the time. Debra says that a lot of the kids don’t know more than just a few names, but M is so social that it makes sense that she is keeping her address book filled out and up to date! Today at her Christmas concert I got to see just how close she is with her friends, and just how happy she is when she is at her school.
I’m finally getting to know some of the other parents as well. I have given out my phone number to one of M’s BFFs’ mom, and now another one has invited her over for Christmas eve day to play (I’m working overtime that day). Another of her friends has a mom who recently lost a baby, so we have been meeting for coffee every so often, and she even joined me on the Remembrance Walk this fall.
After the glowing reviews from her teacher, who had only wonderful things to say about M’s ability to focus, concentrate, listen, socialize, and her progress with reading, writing, and numbers, and after seeing her joy and how happy she is at her current school, well you can bet I’m sitting here wondering how I could be taking her out. HOW CAN I BE TAKING HER OUT??? Technically she could stay in this class another two years (it goes through age 6) and any decent mom would keep her there, where she is loved and supported so thoroughly!
The plan has always been to come back to Michigan after my San Francisco contract is up in April. I will return M to her wonderful classroom for the last 6 weeks of school and hopefully have play dates with her school friends over the summer. Everything depends on whether or not I can get a travel contract in Michigan and what the take home pay will be. It needs to be $1300 or higher per week after taxes (I’d prefer $1500 to $1700) for me to bank at least $1000 more per month than I make at my permanent staff job, and that includes a second “travel home” rent and expenses. So… it’s doable.
But ahhh yes, I do love adventure. Adventure calls to me, it truly does. The lure of the ocean, the Himalayas, or the redwoods. The world calls to me but… what is more important to my daughter right now? She totally fell apart in Nepal. She’s a kid who, yes she does great on airplanes and she can adventure all day in mountains or forests or beaches, BUT she wanted to come home. And I swear to god since coming back from Nepal she has talked about nothing but how much she loves her home, how nice it is to be home, how much she loves her school, etc. She has been through so much in her short life, maybe I was wrong to think she’d be totally fine with being uprooted all the time? My little social butterfly, she was deeply crushed that she could not seem to forge deep connections with children in other cultures or in other languages. How can I rob her of the chance to be with true friends for more than a few months at a time?
It may be that Michigan becomes “home” after all, and these local contracts help me pay off debt. And then? Local contracts offer me flexibility, as much vacation time as I want whenever I want, and we can plan shorter trips (no longer than the month we spent in Nepal) to help her build up her confidence and her sense of security wherever she goes. The behavior was so rough in Nepal, and our mother-daughter relationship so damaged, that I’m not sure I can go through it again, not in that same way for that same amount of time.
I have to travel to be mentally healthy and happy, but I may be willing to turn long-term travel into shorter (1-4 week) “stints” throughout the year in order to give her that secure base that she needs.
UGH. This mom-ing stuff is hard, right? Like just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, you realize something else or something new. But after we got home, I made her dinner, a bath, read several books, and she fell asleep happy and so easily, I know in my heart that this stability and routine that grates on me is what allows her to be calm, comfortable, and balanced. What else could I want for my child?