Am I the only one who feels like life is happening too fast?
We've been back from our work/vacation trip for almost a week now. The apartment's a mess; there are a million little things we are behind on. The jetlag won't die. Christmas is coming, whether we like it or not, and we still have to buy 10 thoughtful presents. Oh, and the Lorax has chickenpox!
The kicker came today at Natali's parent-teacher conference. There were three teachers and one of me. Academically, she is doing fine. Ok, I knew that, but their concerned faces told me that the conversation was about to turn sour. In short, they think she is fat, and that I am not doing enough to prevent it. Her female teacher told me that if only I would spend more time with her, Natali would forget about eating. Don't I see that all the changes in her life are causing her to resolve to food as a friend that never lets her down? All three of them kept going on about how lazy and fat she was. One of them, a guy I don't know too well who runs the after school program, joked that Natali's first words upon entering the building was always "what's for dinner?". Har-dee-har-har.
It was like sitting in front of three Dr. Phils, only with more platitudes. I told them that from when I come home from work, Natali is never more than 3 feet away from me. I didn't tell them how the Girl sometimes complains that Natali acts more like my wife than she does, but maybe I should have; just think of the forthcoming bumper sticker logic!
I was up against the ropes.
We came to the following conclusions:
1. She can only eat the lunch/snacks we pack for her. No accepting leftovers from other kids. No begging snacks at the after school program.
2. One hour of moving around every day.
3. She gets weighed every Thursday, and her teacher will sit down and review the result and the preceding week's eating and exercise.
I like the rules; hopefully they will work. I did not like the attitude, though. They kept implying that she has too much responsibility for her age. That I'm too uninvolved. Talk eventually turned to our plans next year. I explained that my ex wants her back in La Crosse next year, but that I'm hoping to get her back the following year. They lectured me on the importance of stability, and I told them that I had no say in it. I mentioned that for all I knew, my ex could call the police and tell them I kidnapped Natali to a foreign country. That got a little respect, or at least generated some genuine interest, and I'm convinced our sorry tale will be shared over pipes and Birkenstocks in the teacher's lounge.
At first, I was a little angry. I was driving to work, cursing this outside-Green-zone Baghdad that is my life. Cursing my commute, cursing the distance to Andreas, cursing how Natali has to move next year. Cursing the day the Girl looked at me and said, "why can't we move to Denmark" and I said "why not?", because I was so in love and would go anywhere with her. A simple "nah, I can't leave the kids" would have sufficed.
Then a sense of despair set in. If only I could slow down life a little; if only I had more time. Time to mold our family into a unit so tight, with values and traditions so strong, that we could laugh at the mundane troubles of ho-hum life. Why don't we have a Christmas tree yet? Why do I work every day till Christmas, including a 24-hour shift on the 25th? Maybe our last Christmas in Denmark, and it gets swallowed up in stress.
We dream of an end to all this, of course, as idiots in our shoes always do. The end never comes, until one of us, most likely me, dies from a stress-related heart attack. But a short respite is on the horizon, at least. When the Girl goes on maternity leave in the fall, we are moving to Wisconsin for 6+ months. She'll work on her PhD with the UW eye people; I'll be done with fellowship and will freelance at odd jobs. It's certainly something to look forward to: imagine being close to the kids, working less but for more money, while living in an exciting new place (Madison, where I have never lived, but where the Girl went to college). This coincides beautifully with Natali's forced return to La Crosse. For the unlikely reader unfamiliar with Wisconsin's layout, it's about a two-hour drive from La Crosse to Madison. A cross-country trek by Danish standards; a well-deserved chance to catch up on some NPR by American.
Perhaps I wil get some sleep tonight and enjoy my post-call day with the Girl and Natali. Our poxed son is still with his grandmother, so the three of us shall form a tight unit and find a Christmas tree. It will be me and my two wives, all of us losing weight from the walking and the emesis.