‘Harder…faster…don’t stop!’ I encouraged Dave with great enthusiasm as he rhythmically… rocked Alice’s bassinet back and forth, desperately trying to get her to resettle so that this would not be just another 20 minute power-nap. ‘Waaaaaaaa! Baahhhh! Waaaaaaa’, our smallest team member howled in response.
I stepped outside. ‘Girls,’ I began to raise my voice, now on the verge of tears. ‘I am not negotiating with you. The next piece of food you eat will be fruit.’ Dave appeared and announced, ‘I need to get out. Go for a walk, take a shower, something, before I snap.’ We were both exasperated. It was pack-up camp time again. While we had somewhat gotten used to the process of essentially moving houses with three young children every four days, this pack up was by far the worst. The weather didn’t help. The winds had escalated to over thirty knots, which meant we literally had to try to pack up camp with all three girls cooped up in the tin can. Our usually chilled wanderer Alice has hit the four-month mark and is going through the notorious sleep regression. I thought by the third child I would be able to more easily put this phase into better perspective, but I was presently overwhelmed by the fear that I would never sleep again.
I walked passed the van and momentarily imagined throwing eggs at it. I didn’t actually do it – egging the caravan would require me to undertake more washing, without a dishwasher or laundry. Our dishes were already piled especially high after the dinner party we had hosted (caravan style) as a farewell to our surf instructor.
I have repeatedly questioned, given my current circumstance (being on a trip of a lifetime), whether it is ok to complain, especially in public. I have decided (for the time being) that it is not only ok but, perhaps, important. Important, not only because I felt somewhat lost without my usual support outlets surrounding me to debrief over a cup of tea and tell me exactly what I needed to hear, but because I think it is important to be real about the fact that the idea of picture perfect parenting (or family adventures for that matter) is a fallacy.
The frequent neighbour to the many magical moments we have been experiencing are demanding children and exhausted parents, often not bringing out the best in each other. The difficulty of navigating the effects of changing family dynamics should not be underestimated. While it was wonderful to have Dave around so much, I perhaps had romanticized my expectations of spending 24/7 with each other and having him as such a significant part of the girls’ and my routine during usual office hours. Similarly, I am sure Dave has gotten pretty jack of my constant nagging, snapping, and shorting the van’s electrical circuit by running the entire contents of one of our 90L water tank through the hot water system (it was a great shower) whilst simultaneously cranking the air-conditioner. Allowing vulnerability to be disclosed and become part of our story during this wonderful season of our lives has led to significant personal and spiritual growth. Meeting each other where we are actually at instead of where we think we ought to be has been surprisingly cathartic and enabled us to try to never take ourselves too seriously… at least most of the time.