|Holden - At Keukenhof, one of the most beautiful
botanical gardens in the world.
“Weeeell, Cee-laa-ste. Yeew knooow. Howlden ez jus ful o’ life,” my Dad, in his distinguished West-Texas-slow-as-molasses-slang speaks through the waves of invisible technology across the
Atlantic Ocean into my
headphones. A tiny fuzzy microphone hovers
inches from my smiling mouth. Guglielmo
Marconi is rolling in his grave at the ease of communication in the 21st
century – thank heavens for Skype. My
Dad and I have been talking about my absolute exhaustion of chasing after my
little baby boy. For months. “Yew knoow?” my Dad said, after his visit in
March, “Ah D-cided that whut Howlen needs is a backyaaarwd.” Thank you for the keen assessment, Daddy. I’ll just order one of those off of Amazon –
the UK site is
in English, thus more user-friendly, but Amazon.de has free shipping? Ah, I wish the solution was so simple.
My Mom visited a few months later. My entire life I’ve heard about what an exhausting child my brother, Jonathan, was, at least, his first 4-years of life. “I walked out of every restaurant in
Plano with that boy.
. .” she always said, with a tension in her shoulders apparent years later – her vivid recollection of her screaming 3rd
born child were never shaken. In the
days of pre-child-proof vehicle door locks, it was my job, as passenger in the
front seat of our conversion van at the ripe age of six, to hold down the lock
to make sure my screaming toddler brother, who had wriggled his way out of his
car seat and was now throwing a tantrum on the floorboard, wouldn’t open the
door as we barreled down Parker Road in Plano towards home.
In April, exhausted from her long flight, I was just as excited about my Mom’s first visit to The Netherlands! – A family reunited, we attempted to sit in the airport lounge and drink a cup of coffee. It didn’t work. I held Holden. I put him on my lap while sitting uncomfortably on the plastic seat of the Burger King. I let him walk. I watched him run out of the low barrier of the fast-food seating and into the large pedestrian area. I chased after him. Passengers sporting countless nationalities smiled. Some stared. Luckily, all dodged him as he blindly barreled his tiny body willingly and recklessly towards their rolling luggage. I held my miniature kamikaze pilot and flashed universally-accepted apologetic smiles. He fiercely wriggled out of my arms and I involuntarily let him down. I chased him again. He runs. I chase. He runs. I chase. He runs. He’s so fast. He’s. So. Fast. I. Keep. Chasing and chasing and chasing. Fifteen minutes after arriving in the country to visit the grandchildren she hadn’t seen in six months (and thus prior to Holden’s mobility) she says to me, with a knowing smile and at least a little sympathy – “You’ve got a Jonathan on your hands.”
I agree. But my mom got through it – as strong and as determined as she is. My brother (ahem, after age 4) was awesome, and still is. My mom and brother are close and he was always the kid who most easily made her smile and laugh throughout our childhood. They are a good match.
A few weekends ago, my family took a day-trip to
Belgium. We near Gent and
Holden starts to wriggle and scream.
Within seconds, his Houdini-like maneuvers have him free of the shackles
of his car seat and he pulls on my husband’s driver-side headrest, attempting
to free the lower-half of his body. In
our tiny European car, I’m easily able to reach into the backseat, and visions
of my mother driving our van involuntarily enter my head. The flashing images trip through my mind, while
a chanting mantra of “ignore negative behavior” mesmerizes and desensitizes
me. It’s a strange playback of jumbling
and uncomfortable thoughts - like that horrible boat ride in the Willy Wonka
We arrive in
safely. The kids are in awe of the parking garage we’ve entered. I sigh.
I’m worlds from where I was, but at the same time, find myself
reconnected to my past, as always, in really funny, unexpected ways.
We load the kids into the double stroller and go into town. We find a nice sidewalk café to have lunch. Within two minutes of ordering, Holden screams to be let out of the stroller, and for the next 30 minutes V
|Cosette - before being served her Jack Daniel's apple juice
Holden is now the age Cosette was when we moved here. He’s crazy, unruly, and more often than not, refuses to sit still more than a handful of minutes no matter if it’s in a high chair, stroller, car seat, or willingly to read a book. At this age, she knew and spoke many words, whereas he’s not quite as advanced. There’s the fall-back excuse of ‘well, he’s a boy!’ but I can’t help but also wonder if there’s something more ominous at work here. Cosette was enrolled in daycare full time her first 21-months of life. At her American daycare they sat. They ate together. They sang songs. They had story-time. She had the full-time attention of many women – split between other classmates, but still - no one was trying to clean house or cook meals (or ahem, check Facebook or e-mail, hopefully) while she was their responsibility. I don’t worry too much about Holden’s socialization - he has Cosette to play and eat meals with. As far as education and activities - we spend countless hours at museums, the library, playgrounds, and playing at home – it’s not the same as the highly regulated curriculum and tightly-focused similarly-aged classmates Cosette conversed with everyday back in Texas. Even now that Holden is enrolled in Dutch daycare once a week and I’ve seen a few samples of artwork, I get the feeling they primarily focus on letting “kids be kids.”
So, with that – I cannot say with certainty what the American daycare did for my daughter as a jump-start to life vs. my son’s upbringing with a full-time Mom in The Netherlands. Girl vs. boy. Work vs. stay-at-home. American vs. Dutch. Or perhaps it’s genetic – Holden is a spitting image of my brother? There are just too many variables, but in the end, I guess it doesn’t really matter. Holden is Holden, my rambunctious baby boy, with a smile and laugh that attracts an international crowd.
|V and Holden standing next to our lunch locale in Gent