Hard to believe but we’re half way through our Poland trip.
The last few months back in Chicago felt like a never-ending marathon. It seemed like no matter how hard I tried, the sink (farmer style, might I add) was full of dishes; I crossed off five items off my to-do list only to add five more. Being a one woman show, means that even though I try to take care of myself, there are times I get burn out and overwhelmed. And after another round of parenting without extra support, running a podcast and launching my fashion business, I had nothing left to give. Yet I felt like I couldn’t and shouldn’t stop working. You know what they say, your dreams don’t work unless you do. On some days I had to remind myself to just breathe.
I guess you can say that this Poland trip was a sort of a planned escape, a retreat without the typical retreat price tag. There were also a myriad of other reasons why I thought making this long trip would be a good idea. Jose was awarded a fellowship at UCLA and we will be moving to LA next summer. This means that I will have my hands busy getting everyone settled into a new house and routine, and I won’t be able to visit my family across the pond that year. Excitedly, my sister who lives in Poland, is pregnant and about to have her second baby, and I wanted us to be close by to welcome the new addition. As is the case with every parent raising multicultural kids, I simply wanted Adrian and Julian to spend time with their Polish cousins, practice Polish, and enjoy the kind of slow summer break I had growing up (or close to it). I knew that a change of scenery and an extra pair or two of grandparents’ hands will also help me get out of my head and regroup.
Adjusting to a much slower pace of life with no cell service and wifi only available at my parents’ house and hotels wasn’t easy at the beginning. If you know me, I love being active and I am always out roaming the city and checking out new places with my boys. Initially, I couldn’t help but feel like I was missing out on life, that all of my friends in Chicago we're doing all the summery things with their kids, attending events, working on new collaborations. Meanwhile, most days, the main item on our agenda was a bike ride and ice cream.
But after a couple of weeks my attitude started to shift. I was able to get out of my head, and realized THE life the way my kids see it and will remember IS happening right now, right in front of us. Wandering in grandpa’s garden (and saving my kids’ terrified selves from all kinds of insects:)), watching Julian eat black currents directly from a branch, riding our bikes to the lake, daily ice cream trips (which quickly became everyone’s fav part of the day), watching Adrian make friends and play soccer with the neighborhood kids, and lay outside on the blanket doing nothing (and yes, also, listening to Adrian — this time unbothered — say “I’m so bored”, but then 5 minutes later finding something to do). After a few days of going back and forth in my head — feeling like I should be doing MORE and pulling myself back to be fully present with my kids —I realized this is what SLOWING down looks like. It’s not only a hashtag. It’s a real thing. And it feels weird at the beginning, especially if you have been chasing your own tale.
After four weeks I’ve also started seeing a subtle pivot in my parenting. By now I have been sleeping stretches of 5-8 hours, waking up slowly, looking at my sleepy, smiley kids, NOT looking at my phone or email to see if any orders came in, walking downstairs, brewing strong coffee, and making breakfast while my kids watched Polish cartoons or played outside in their pjs. Day by day, I yelled less, I had more patience handling toddler conflicts, more compassion, more time to just look at my kids, and listen to everything they were telling me.
I have become a more peaceful parent not because I’ve had other people take care of my kids (I always thought this was key). My parents play and read to my kids, and take them to a playground occasionally, but their love languages mostly comes through cooked meals, loaded dishwasher, and washed (and ironed) clothes. I have become a more peaceful parent because I purposefully planted myself and my boys in a calmer, less structured, slower pace of life:
our days in Poland have less distractions (less extracurricular activities, no school friends, no scheduled playdates, no birthday parties) which forces us to just hang out together and make friends at the playgrounds and at the beach
there are less museums, zoos, indoor playgrounds within a short distance. We still do a lot of these activities, but these outings happen once or twice a week. The rest of the week is spent on bike rides, outdoor play and exploring local sights
no internet access on my phone while outside of my parents’ house. This is one is HUGE! I hope I never let myself get sucked into the social media world again:) Even when we’re at home, I designated specific times during the day (after breakfast, nap time, my kids’ screen time in the evening, and after bedtime, to do work)
having my parents and other relatives around to play, chat and help with my boys, which is something we miss a lot in Chicago and one of the hardest parts about raising family across the pond
We have four more weeks to go and I wholeheartedly intend to carry these practices (at least the phone and work segments) into our lives back in Chicago. Do you think I’m being overly optimistic? Maybe. What are some shifts, adjustments you’ve made (even if temporarily) that made you a more present and more peaceful parent?