(**Update at bottom of post.)
I can’t believe that we’ve been travelling for almost six months. As of this writing, we’ve stayed in 28 hotels, 22 motels, two college residences, one tent, three cabins, three condos, one basement, three houses, one apartment, and two hostels. We’ve seen lots of different designs and layouts in our accommodations, and every single one has had its quirks that required some figuring out, whether it was the shower, the lamps, the TV, the microwave, the fridge (I’ve lost count of how many bags of baby carrots we’ve frozen in those small bar fridges!), where the stairs were when we needed more exercise, and so on. Every new place has given us a chance to see how different things can be, and how we can adapt by rearranging ourselves as need be. Some accommodations have been much bigger than expected and some were quite cramped; most were very clean. We’ve been pretty lucky, too, with the weather and our overall well-being. We haven’t had to deal with any dangerous situations, and have felt safe in the places we’ve stayed.
Sharing rooms and beds with the people you love most and who also drive you the nuttiest is an adventure all its own, and often not an easy one. That’s not to say that we’re unhappy, because compared to the demands of living in a small house on a busy street in an expensive city, we’ve got it pretty damned good! But travelling with kids, especially, when there’s no where to really hide and make as much noise as you sometimes need to, can be challenging. And being together every moment brings to light many sides of us, and sometimes the less savoury sides gets expressed out in the open, where other people can hear. But this is one thing that I’m learning to worry less about, with our wandering as a unit of four. Sometimes it’s okay to express yourself in public, when you’re tired and lost and everyone’s going a little crazy, because these people who are looking at you might have some judgment and a story to tell their acquaintances later, but really, who fucking cares? It’s usually a quick argument, then it’s over. And then we hug and apologize and talk about it. And best of all, we learn from the experience, as evidenced by the way our conflicts have been turning more into conversations than arguments lately, by how much closer, more understanding we are of each other. And let me tell you, that feels pretty damned good.
There has also been one thing with regard to Fisher’s health that has had an effect on the rest of us. Despite having had his tonsils and adenoids removed, back in April, to alleviate some mild sleep apnea, Fisher’s breathing is still being affected by a perpetual stuffy nose, which is likely a result of the same immunity issues that cause the eczema he’s had since he was born. This means that while he no longer snores, his sleep is still disrupted by breathing problems (that, and he’s easily over-stimulated, which is compounded by never getting enough sleep). Sharing a bed with him for most of our trip, and having sleep problems of my own because of residual mental health issues, has been quite difficult at times, and has led to behaviour problems, or I should say, enhancement of pre-existing personality “features” (not bugs, ha ha!) in Fisher.
Of course, as an adult I’m (mostly) better at handling inadequate sleep, but Fisher’s poor sleep has naturally affected us all, especially Milo, who is having to contend with this burly, opinionated, and domineering older brother. And it’s taken a toll on Milo, so much so that he’s been using eating, one of the few things he has control over, to work out his frustrations. He’s become one of the pickiest eaters I’ve ever seen, to the point where he can like and then dislike a food within the same day (if he manages to like a food, that is). Which means that often Milo gets hungry, refuses to eat if we’ve run out of his preferred-food-of-the-moment, and then has a meltdown over something seemingly mild and unrelated.
And then there’s Eric, who doesn’t get enough sleep for other reasons – it’s hard to turn in at night when everyone’s finally quiet – and has to deal with all of us freaking out at differing intervals and frequencies. So then he freaks out (can you believe that Eric freaks out? He does. In his own way, but at least once a day.) And one of the things that has bothered him the most is not going on a hike or seeing a monument or visiting a museum he and I wanted to because at the time it was asking just a little too much of our kids, who simply don’t have the interest in or understanding of the same things we do. It’s frustrating, given how unique this experience is and how we want to make the most of it. But the truth is that within our family we are constantly contending with six relationships. That’s quite a bundle of personalities, preferences, needs, decisions, and ideas!
This is what our family, travelling, looks like. But thanks to all of the drama (and our incredible good fortune), we look each other in the eye more, we make compromises, we come up with solutions, we learn about the world and each other, and feel a lot of love.
Thank you so much for reading this post. 🙂
**Update** A few days after publishing this post, Milo’s appetite seemed to grow! He started eating larger meals, and wasn’t so quick to dismiss foods that he had previously liked. Maybe this change could be chalked up to coincidence, but maybe getting the issue out in the open by writing about it somehow affected the dynamic ever so slightly within our family, to positive effect. Who’s to say for sure?
Something else worth mentioning is that since we arrived in New Zealand, Fisher has been able to sleep in a bed of his own just about every night, which has helped my sleep quite a bit. He still has someone sleeping nearby, though, to help him through his anxious moments, to bring him back to bed when he sleepwalks, or to throw blankets back on him when he’s kicked them off.
As for Eric and me, we’re adapting more and more to our family’s physical and emotional closeness each day (not easy for either of us), and growing closer and more trusting of each other. I have learned so much about myself since leaving Toronto, and have been taking a good look at how my conditioning, perception, and expectations have affected my life. (I’ll be writing more about that in another blog post.)
All that said, and being well into the ninth month of our trip, we’re looking forward to unpacking the Novaks a little more permanently in the near future. 🙂