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Aug 26, 2010

Where is everybody?

Our summer vacation in Europe was generally a success. I was a little bit concerned about the kids' reaction to new environments, especially because Daddy was not traveling with us. For them, the only piece of consistency was being with me. Other than that, we expected to visit 2 different houses, try a whole set of new activities, speak in 2 languages other than English and meet a variety of people the kids had barely met (but who were eager to interact with them). Not to mention the whole issue with long travel and jetlag. In short, it could have been a recipe for disaster, and I was expecting at least similar issues than the ones we experienced during our Christmas visit.

Overall, though, things went a lot smoother. Granted, we had some unavoidable issues with jetlag. Other than that, Daniel seemed to adjust very well. He asked for Daddy a lot for the first few days, but he didn't make a big deal out of his absence. He enjoyed all the activities we proposed and proactively asked for more (e.g. riding a boat as we drove by the beautiful Neckar river, going to the swimming pool several times). Even in France, where he had to meet 13 family members and other occasional visitors, he did really well. Most of the time, he seemed confident, enthusiastic and didn't throw the kinds of tantrums we saw over Christmas. Relief!

Interestingly enough, though, he seemed to become more needy and unstable as time went by. I think there was only a limited number of new experiences and people he could process without blinking. Over time, he wanted more alone-time with Mommy, and he became very preoccupied about where everybody was and where we were going. Due to vacation schedules, some of our family members had had to leave our vacation home days before us, just when Daniel had gotten used to them. This later generated concerns every time someone left the house, even to do a quick shopping trip. He wondered if they were gone for good. Daniel started asking "where is XXX" all the time. Also, with all the new activities we ended up doing, he also wondered more and more "where are we going?" This became his daily litany. On the way back home, he must have asked this question every 3 minutes, even though I think he understood from the beginning that we were going home (although, when I was asking him where he thought we were going, he didn't always have the right answer). I think it was either too much to process at that point, or Daniel wanted to be reassured all the time given that his self-confidence was low. It got to the point where I got very tired of answering the same question over and over again, but I tried to remind myself that it was Daniel's way of processing the new changes. He didn't do it on purpose to bother us, he just needed the explanations. And we needed to help him if we wanted to avoid other types of reaction to his stress.

Even now that we have been back for a few days, Daniel regularly asks where we are going on the way to school, a route he knows by heart. I am hoping that, as we settle in in our routine again, Daniel will go back to feeling self confident again, so that he can turn his questions to new things he wants to learn. (I am sure, though, that I might regret wishing this once I have to answer the "why" questions 10 times in a row!) In the meantime, I need to be patient, and to be glad that, overall, it was the best Europe vacation Daniel has had so far.

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