I’m going to start this by saying electric assisted mountain bikes are the best! We rented 5 of them over the weekend and went for a family bike ride up into the hills. Considering most bike routes around here start with going up and up, it’s pretty cool to have an electric boost. At the same time, we had to keep pedaling so we still got a good workout-the best of both worlds. To keep the kids entertained along the way, I taught them how to crack open almond shells (thanks to my painting teacher who taught me), so we sat on the road and ate fresh almonds right off the tree. This made up for my crushed fantasy of grabbing a fresh avocado or mango right off the many trees around here (one that no one would notice was gone, of course) because they are too hard to eat and enjoy that soon anyway.
In addition to our fun biking adventure this past weekend, we also enjoyed meeting another Seattle family (from Ballard, in fact) who is traveling around the world for the year. The kids met each other on Instagram, initially. They already had plans to visit Spain so we invited them to come see us on the southern coast so we could all meet. While the kids took off, elated to have hangout time with fellow Seattleites, the grownups talked for hours, comparing notes and stories and discovering the benefits and challenges of both traveling to so many places as well as living in one location. We wish them grand adventures and safe travels as they continue to explore the world.
Halloween was a sad day for us this year. As we no longer have elementary school kids living with us, and Halloween is much less celebrated here in Spain, for the first time, no one had any interest in dressing up or trick or treating. Davis ran off with his friends for the evening, George and I had a dinner date with Hadley and watched the new Ghostbusters movie, and Quinton attended a sleepover although not just any sleepover; one that involved a large group of teenagers, a hotel room, and alcohol, or so we were told. EEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!! I was aware the drinking age in Europe is 18 (up from only 16 in Spain 2 years ago) but it was official, we were now faced with this stressful time in life when we were having to be fearful for our child’s safety, set some firm limits, possibly deprive Quinton of having a good time with his friends and most likely, be deprived of sleep for the first time since we had babies. I couldn’t help but think that if this was happening at home in America, we would (along with other parents) most likely close the situation down before it even started and we would try to creatively distract the kids with a trip to the movies. I could hardly believe my eyes when I read a text from a German parent that read “ I don’t think they will get drunk.” How naïve could she be?
Additional conversations with European parents, and several hours and deep breathes later, George and I realized we could act out our American parenting style, fear-based of course, or we could consider the additional cultural values in which we currently live, sit our son down and turn the situation into a learning experience. After laying out the imagined scenario, we helped Q think through his wants and needs, we strategized together about different action plans, offered our support and availability at any hour of the night and we sent him on his way. He texted me at 3:40am to say he was going to sleep and asked to be picked up at 11:00am. I slept before and after the text. The whole evening and sleepover turned out to be much more benign than anticipated and I am glad we did not parent out of fear.
On a more personal note, it never occurred to me, before we left Seattle to live in Spain, that several of our friends might experience hardships while we were gone. I have a belief (however invalid) that if I think that something difficult might happen, then it won’t happen because I simply can’t predict the future (I have been freed of many potential plane crashes living by this belief). But this past year, I never thought to say to myself ‘I sure hope no one experiences a family or health crisis while we are gone.’ If only I had, then no one would, of course. Time would stand still in Seattle, until we returned. If I had been mindful of these possibilities before we left, then maybe I could have prevented them from happening to anyone. Yup, that’s my delusional thinking that my thoughts control the universe.
In addition, as a #2, AKA The Helper, on the Enneagram, a popular self-awareness tool often used to support personal development, I struggle with feeling helpless and sometimes even worthy if I am not physically present or actively supportive when someone else is struggling. Therefore, it is crazy hard for me to be so far away when close friends are suffering.
So here I sit, in Spain, far, far away from the people I love who are suffering. The challenge is that I have to learn to be with my discomfort of not being physically there to help. I need to trust that my efforts to stay in close contact remotely and be of support from afar are enough for now until I can once again, be with them. Although this has made being present in Spain more challenging, it has made me more appreciative of our Seattle community and the love we share with our friends in both joyful and hard times.