Choose Joy

I half drafted a post about how it’s been a rough time in the Engineer’s household, and some of the lessons I’ve learned. It wasn’t really a negative post by the end, but I got halfway through, and realised that I’m sick of only writing here in the hard times. I think it’s important to share those hard times, and will continue to do so, but at this rate everyone is going to think it’s all hard times here, and that I’m not enjoying this parenting thing. That is definitely not the truth, so today I’m going to focus on some of my favourite things about life with The Engineer’s Baby.

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This age (nearly 15 months if you’ve lost track, which wouldn’t be surprising with my posting (in)frequency) is so much fun, but my favourite thing is the babble. She doesn’t really speak any English yet, but her babble is fairly communicative and totally adorable. She adds sounds and syllables and babbly-phrases every day, it seems, and I love it.

We get on just fine, her and I, but she is absolutely crazy about her Papa. When she hears his car roll up, she gets the biggest grin on her face, and rushes to climb her chair and look out the window. It’s the cutest.

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Every so often she completely surprises me with what she understands. I’ll say “I’ve got a sore head”, and she’ll point to her head (and it’s repeated, so I don’t think it’s coincidence). Or I’ll ask her to get a cloth, and she actually does it. The other day she cleaned up her own spill with only instructions from me. It’s pretty astounding to me that babies can go from little newborn blobby cuteness to following verbal instructions in just over a year.

I love watching her play. She’s all over the place, of course, but every so often she’ll really focus in on one thing. Opening a container, getting a shoe onto her foot, pulling her buzzy be around, stacking her stacking rings. Her little focus face is adorable.

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She’s gone from a barely-cuddly baby to a really great hugger. Big around the neck cuddles, head resting on chest, the whole nine yards. Each night before The Engineer takes her through to bed, we have a last snuggle, and it’s just lovely.

This isn’t even the half of it really. There is so much joy in parenting a toddler. Sometimes it’s a little hidden behind some very real challenges, some not quite so real challenges magnified by sleep deprivation, and a whole lot of mess. But it’s there. And today, at least, I’m choosing to shine a light on it.

Homesick

“Well you only need the light when it’s burning low; only miss the sun when it starts to snow.
Only know you love her when you let her go.

Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low; only hate the road when you’re missing home.

Only know you love her when you let her go; and you let her go.”

Passenger, Let Her Go.

I’m sure all expats are familiar with homesickness. The longing for the familiar, the comfortable. The wish to see family and friends. The feeling that this new place is too weird, too boring, too hard, or just not home. And let me tell you, I am really in the thick of it at the moment.

I miss home. I miss walking and just generally being outside. I miss not being sweaty. I miss tramping (hiking) and mountain biking and picnics and nature. I miss having a garden. I miss my favourite caf├ęs and walkways. I miss gourmet burgers and nice beer. I miss my favourite op shop and my crazy wardrobe. I miss my friends and family. I miss feeling like I’m in the place where my soul sings.

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It doesn't look like much, but it's home.

Basically, I miss being home, and I am ready to go back. More than ready. Plans aren’t confirmed, but we’re working on it (and hoping to be back in 2016). I am trying not to get my hopes too high, but really I can’t wait.

But at the same time, I know that going back would/will be strange. We haven’t lived at home with our kid. The life we left is not the life we will go back to. We will need to relearn how to live there, recreate our routines, readjust our spending habits. Our experience in Brunei has changed us and our life in ways unexpected and unknown. We really don’t know what it will be like to be home, or if it will feel like home. It will definitely not feel like home to The Engineer’s Baby, who has only ever known Brunei.

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Although Brunei isn't so bad either.

And we will have to face the fact that for all the things we miss, there are downsides too. We will have to figure out seasonal dressing for a toddler. We will get cold, and will have to wear shoes other than jandals and Birkenstocks. We will get a shock every time we fill the car with petrol for quite some time. We will not be able to buy delicious Indian breads for breakfast every weekend (or ever, probably) and there won’t be a stall selling $2 noodles just down the street. We will miss our friends here and the life we have built.

But such is the life of an expat. Life abroad is full of good stuff and not so good stuff.  Repatriation is full of good stuff and not so good stuff. In fact, life anywhere is full of good stuff and not so good stuff. So at the end of the day, it’s not “expat life” that holds these challenges, it’s just life. And as long as we go into it with open eyes, an open mind, and an open heart, we’ll make it through.

Plus, we’ll hopefully be here, and who can be miserable with that view practically on your doorstep.

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Mount Taranaki, Stratford, New Zealand.

(Actually, me. I can be miserable anywhere. But that view definitely helps.)