When I tucked my kids into bed tonight, on this their second day in our country, we talked about what a good day we’d had. We took a walk on a nature trail, they met and played with their cousin, we got 26 books at the library. “And I got presents!” added Oak. “And I got presents too!” added Linden, who is always trying to keep right up with her big brother.
We’ve legally been their parents for nine days. We’ve been their caregivers for two weeks. Today they mooned me (I mean, spread buttcheeks and all), threw an apple at my head, smeared bananas over two windows, tried to sneak a mustard bottle into their bedrooms, locked me out of the house twice (yes, the second time I had figured out to keep a key in my pocket), cracked an egg on Linden’s brand new pillow (which yesterday they spilled orange juice on), peed on the nature trail six times, and, well, there’s more, but you get the idea. Yet it really was a good day. When I think about that, the reality of what we’re doing really hits me. I don’t think I know any parents that would consider this a good day. Somewhere in there my husband vomited into the guest bathroom sink, which clogged it, and I think having to clean that out wars with concern for him for feeling so terrible as my two biggest downers of the day.
The rest of it I pretty much just rolled with, and since things never got beyond a certain point, we were able to have fun together. Other than the peeing, I loved taking the walk with them. They grumbled about it all the way down our street and around the corner, then when we stepped onto the nature trail, Oak gasped, “Is it a forest?!?” They eagerly spotted birds and squirrels. They dashed ahead of me, but stayed on the path and always stopped at the pre-arranged point I’d set. They told me stories, very few of which I understood, but I loved the animation in their faces and their eagerness to share with me. After the last few days (and the public peeing today), I had been concerned about them getting together with their cousin for the first time, but it went swimmingly. She eagerly handed them gifts, which they eagerly ripped open right there in the parking lot of the park we’d decided to meet at, and their delight needed no translation. “How did they know I wanted Legos?” wondered Oak, so “How did they know I love Barbie?” echoed Linden. The kids played on the play structure together, our niece filled up her water bottle from the drinking fountain for them, and my two “Yuck, I don’t drink water” kids took turns gulping it down. I translated the Lithuanian rules of Tag, and they had a rousing game. The dads supervised more games on the play structure while I sat with my sister-in-law and talked about parenting. Our niece is lovely, bright and willful and charming. I know my kids’ behavior right now is extreme and atypical, but it still helped to hear some of the challenges my in-laws have with their kid. After we left the park, the kids were delighted with the library, grabbing any book that caught their eye once they realized I wasn’t going to set much of a limit, while the librarian quickly located a half dozen wordless books for me, so we can “read” together. We came home and they dove into their gifts, ate their dinner, asked for their baths, and climbed into bed of their own free will, happy to be settled in with their new stuffed dogs, their library books, and their new nightlights. It was a good day, indeed.