Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Enter the Daycare

I've never even seen Enter the Dragon, but felt that a martial arts reference was somehow appropriate here.

Yes, Peanut is in daycare now. We started her last week. The plan is to have her in daycare 2 days a week in order for Gboy and I to attend to some work-related issues (his home business needs some help and at the moment the help is me). Also, I'm hoping to get some quality time with Sweet Pea (and I sincerely hope that we get to do some cat napping together on occasion). Furthermore, I think Peanut could really use the outlet. The daycare we've selected is attended by two of her toddler friends (comforting) and several other new playmates (exciting). They've also got tricycles (!) and dollhouses (!) and a chinchilla (!) and a kitten (!). They go on little excursions to the library and local playgrounds. And starting in one more week, she'll be having preschool in the mornings for a few hours. The preschool teacher is a certified 1st grade teacher with two kiddos of her own, both under the age of 5. It's a wonderful play-based environment that I think suits Peanut's personality beautifully.

Having said all of this, the first day went perfectly. By the second there were signs of some separation anxiety. It's increased little by little each day (we're at day 3 today) and although she loves the idea of playing at the daycare, she doesn't want to nap there. She hasn't outright refused to go yet, and willingly got dressed and walked over with me this morning. And all was going along really well until just before I walked out the door. That's when she lost it and the waterworks started. There was crying, howling, and climbing all over me (and little Sweet Pea who was strapped to me in the Bjorn). I know that kids do this. I know that separating takes time. And I also know that she's a pretty independent kid already (we did a play date test run that went without a hitch - she didn't seem to care if I was around at all that day). I suspect this is just something that we have to muddle through as many parents have done before me, but it feels hard. Really hard.

A part of me feels like I should be able to manage both kids and a home business all at the same time without needing outside help. But Peanut isn't that kind of kid. She's a high-energy kid who likes a *lot* of social interaction. I can only read so many books to her, or play ice cream shop with her for so many hours in the day before Sweet Pea just *has* to have her needs met and the business needs my attention. Eventually, my best efforts to multi-task ("Let's read a book while Mama feeds Sweet Pea") cease to be entertaining enough for Peanut - my little dynamo.

For now, we're riding it out to see where this takes us.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Identity and Change

Yesterday Gboy and I had yet another conversation about where and how to live in order to support the girls with becoming bilingual and bicultural. It seems we've discussed this over and over and over again. The sticking points include:

1) How to find a way to make a real home of OUR own while we live in Japan. Staying with my mother-in-law and father-in-law isn't all that bad. The cost of living is much more affordable that way and the girls benefit from having extended family members around (lots of them live very close by). And I'm fortunate to get along pretty well with my MIL and FIL. As much as Gboy and I have worked to carve out some space of our own in the large house, there's still work that needs to be done if I'm ever going to feel like I can call it my own.

2) How do I find a way to pursue a career path or even do some volunteer work that is fulfilling? Two and a half years ago when we found out that I was pregnant with our first child, I was just finishing my degree in library and information science. I was thrilled to have found a career that I expected to enjoy and had made a career change - quitting my job, and going back to school for another advanced degree - in order to do it. I love my children, but I also know that parenting alone isn't enough to fill me up. I may be able to say good-bye to my career as a young adult librarian. I mean, how can one work in a library for 6 months out of the year? How could I work in young adult services in Japan when I don't speak the language that well and I'm not sure the concept of YA librarian even exists in Japan. I'd be sad to give it up before I even got a chance to really be employed as a YA librarian, but if that goes, I really feel as though I'd need something else to take its place. I don't have that much time right now and I don't expect to or necessarily need to be working at the moment. But I'm looking at options for what to do in a couple of years when Peanut is ready for kindergarten and Sweet Pea is ready for preschool.

3) How do we manage to keep our home in the U.S. so that we have a place to return to? The idea of renting it out for 6 months at a time every year, to new renters, starts to feel like a logistical nightmare. Did I mention that the hardwood floors were damaged by our last renters? Their dog who according to them, never does this, urinated on the carpet. The didn't see it until it had soaked into the carpet and damaged both the carpet and floors. The dog also chewed up and destroyed a remote control. In the future, no pets! We'll learn these lessons the hard way I'm sure, but I'm not sure I really want to.

4) How do we educate the girls? Everyone asks us this question. If we're existing in two places (for now let's say 6 months in each location), how can the girls go to school? Do we pull them out of school mid-year? The fact that the school year calendars are different doesn't seem to help. In Japan the school year starts in April and there's no extended summer vacation like we're used to here in the U.S. This makes things tricky.

In the end, we've decide we're going to keep on trying to make our own path and carve out a lifestyle that works for all four of us and for now that means going back and forth between Japan and the U.S. After our long conversation yesterday, I visited a favorite website of mine, Multilingual Living and read this article on Identity and Change, which is really about how multicultural families can work together to make these huge and potentially life altering changes.

For me, it's obvious that there are significant changes to my identity if we continue to pursue this particular bicultural lifestyle. Item numbers one and two on this list deal directly with creating my own, comfortable personal space and my own personal identity with relation to work or other activities that I find fulfilling outside of my identity as a mother. While Gboy and I had some very productive conversation on our own yesterday and came to a conclusion that I think we're both happy with, I'm hoping that this article will give us some guidelines for decision-making that may help us in the future.