Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

”This was not a good morning.”

”No. Should we start over?”

We’ve actually been doing really well, considering. Considering I’m working 50% for the first time since we moved here. Considering Bjørn travels to Oslo for 2-3 nights a week. Considering the kids wake up every three hours during the nights I get home at 10 p.m. and need to leave again at 6:45 a.m. the next morning. AND considering we added a kitten to the household.

But man, the last couple weeks have been tough.

These weeks we’ve been relay parenting. Bjørn is in town so that I can work my 2-3 shifts a week, and when I’m done he heads to the airport. There are frequent examinations of the calendar. We signed the kids up for activites that I just can’t get them to. Shoot, I can hardly get them to eat breakfast in the morning.

It’s been totally doable, but we’ve toed the line of the tipping point last week.

The running tickerline in my head, the one that sometimes supports but more often judges, says things like, ”what have you done wrong? why don’t they respond when you speak? but how can i tell them to sit still and finish something when all they see is me jumping on and off of my chair? But should I just sit there and not clean up the spilled milk? Am I not modeling good behavior? Is sending him outside when he’s out of control going to make him see the outdoors as a punishment? Is it okay for the big one to watch the small one? At the sake of homework? What part of the equation am I missing? What am I doing wrong? Do we need help or is this normal?”

Everything and nothing is probably what we’re doing wrong.

A woman I work with, who is also not Norwegian, was explaining the other day why it feels harder for us to parent here. We who are not native speakers, who come from different cultures, whose networks are stilted and stunted if existent at all. We feel isolated. Isolated doing the earth’s most common and yet most exhausting job. Despite meeting parents all day long — at barnehage, at school, at practices, at the store — there’s never more than a few minutes to maybe say hello and comment on what a great job the child is doing putting on her shoes. It’s not exactly culturally appropriate to blurt out. ”They are making me crazy. I am going to lose my mind if he runs away from me one more time,” in the coatroom.

Part of it’s me. I’m too quick to speak and too slow to listen. Too quick to pounce on an anecdote and come up with a similar one. I’m working on it.


I wrote this, and then was interrupted by the phone. Turns out I’m not as isolated as I felt; my friend called to check in, probably wasn’t expecting the outpouring of tiredness and stress and emotion that she got. But she took it in, smoothed it down, and I was grateful. Next time I’ll do it for her. And we’ll keep on keeping on, reminding each other we’re doing the best we can, and we can’t do more than that.

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Here’s what I remember about starting the school year:

Getting the list of school supplies sent to our home sometime in early August. Finding out which teacher I’d have. The general jitters of the unknown.

I do NOT remember having to be dragged out of bed on the morning of the first day of school. Or whining over breakfast about how boring I already know second grade is going to be. For example. I mean, is seven really the age where we start to pretend we’re not excited about school? Already?

Sigh. It’s going to be a long year.

Predictably, our new second grader perked up after breakfast, and walked voluntarily to the car. Here he is, in all his off-handed glory:

first day second grade

Happy skolestart, one and all!

(Incidentally, there is no list of school supplies to buy  when one begins school in Steinkjer, The information listed on the schools website includes AND is limited to: The date school begins, the time it begins, and the last day of school this semester. I’m not even really sure what time school ends today.

Sometimes I do really well with not having all the information. Sometimes I need to take a lot of deep breaths.)


The day went well, according to the miniscule amount of information I could get out of Karel. The best part of MY day was seeing the little brothers throw themselves at Karel when we walked up to meet him….at the guesstimated hour. And Cai using his few words and sounds to immediately tell Karel about the cat we saw on the walk up to school.

However, sweet as all that was, and the 1,047 ideas that came spilling out of Karel’s head/mouth once we got home that were surprisingly oriented at doing nice things for Emil, we did have to face the Homework Demon on the very. first. day. Sigh. Wailing, gnashing of teeth, rubber limbs, defiance, insolence, avoidance. Granted, it was the ”write/draw what you did on summer vacation” deal, which is the type of thing we, found out last year that Mr. Concrete Task doesn’t do so well with. But come ON! We took the big airplane to America! We camped and played and swam and saw the dinosaur skeletons and fireflies and Leogland and friends and aunts and uncles honestly is ”we ate ice cream and jello” the best we can come up with here??

Whatever. The assignment was completed in time for sports practice, which was the motivation and the goal.


Also: Included in his take home folder was aaaalllll the necessary information for the rest of the school year, including when school is out each day. I have made copies already and tacked them to the bulletin board. This has become my new strategy. Treat the information as if it is gold and never let it out of your sight.

Five years, man, and I STILL don’t know how to find stuff out.

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It’s late late late local time, and I can’t sleep.

I’ve made a meal plan for the boys while I’m gone next week, added items to various lists, eaten ice cream and pepperkake, and browsed Facebook and old blog posts for the past 1.5 hours. All four men in the house are asleep, but it’s only a question of time before one or more of them start the nightly migration from their rooms to ours, making it even more of a shame that I’m not sleeping while they are.

It’s okay. It’s Thanksgiving. I’ll pretend that I’m high on pie and coffee. And try to record the tones of gratefulness of 2013 before sleep descends.

A List Of Thankfulness, Numbered:

7 is for the seven plus months we’ve had with Cai Ruben. Both chaos and joy increased exponentially as we increased to a family of five. We are humbly, humbly thankful for another safe arrival of a healthy baby. I am convinced that this one is never going to grow up, but will be my baby forever. Why he’s working on crawling is totally throwing me for a loop.

p.s. Did I ever write up a birth story for him? Have I done that for ANY of them? Remind me to do that one day.

6 is for the number of years we’ve been married. Thankful, as always, for a caring husband and fantastic co-parent. These little-kid years are not easy on a relationship, but with luckily for us, our shared trait of stubborness is working in our favor. As is a mutual love of beer and select crime series. Six years down, many more to go.

5 is for the number of years we’ve had with Karel Magne. He’s reading now. Did I mention that? Just single words, not sentences, not books, but words. The first step in entering that world of independent magic. I don’t know if I’m ready for it. What happens when your heart grows up and doesn’t need you anymore? Five is for our oldest brother, the ”storste bukkene Bruse” (biggest billy goat Gruff). He charms us, impresses us, exasperates us, he doesn’t eat meat…par for the course with a billy goat, I guess.

4 is the number of Thanksgivings we’ve had in Steinkjer. Almost four years in the same place means I meet people I know almost every time we’re out. It means that when newer arrivals are working through the emotional contortions of a new/old/different place, I can’t commiserate so much anymore. No one wants to hear ”just give it time”… so I don’t say so much of anything. Four is also the number of screens I access daily to stave off tiredness and feign connectedness with the outside world. Thankful for technology, and as always, Skype.

3 is the number of years we’ve had with Emil Birk. Or rather, Emilian Birk Lyngstad, as he calls himself now. Three months as a three year old…I just don’t even have the words. Two is a piece of cake compared to three. For my own sake, let me repeat it: I am thankful for Emilian Birk Lyngstad. I am thankful for the funny things he says and his soft cheek  snuggles. I love the medley of cartoon theme songs he sings every morning. I would love it more if it weren’t at 6:30 a.m. and accompanied by flailing legs, but you can’t have it all. I love that in the midst of throwing a fit about something, if you explain the situation to him, he will eventually heave a big sigh and say ”okay, maybe.” Right now I love that he will not be three forever…but when he’s five I’ll probably wish that he was. Sigh. So irritating.

2 is…what time it is right now? the number of liters of coffee I’m going to need tomorrow? Two is the number of days until I’m boarding a plane with the baby to Spain to meet Catie. So two represents our thankfulness for the friends we have throughout the world, the friends who travel the world, the friends who love us and keep us in their hearts even when we’re elsewhere in the world. The shrinking of the planet has it’s drawbacks. Small enough to cross paths, but still too wide to hold hands.

1. There is one roof sheltering our five heads. One roof that we sleep, eat, play, talk, shout, and irritate each other under. We know many families for whom this is not so. Or for whom it is now but wasn’t before. However great the joy of being reunited might be, I am thankful for not bearing the weight of being separated.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Praise Him all creatures here below.

Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts.

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.


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