The Summer of Children

Summer of Children

School’s out for Summer!

We introduced the kids to the genius that is this Alice Cooper track last weekend and I’m pleased to say that the air guitars came out in force immediately – and we all appear to share the same inherent family lack of musical talent.

That’s it. Term is done. The first year of school in Shanghai has been successfully completed and we have three kids that can now all converse with each other in their own secret language – that most people over here (other than me & hubby) can understand.  This is not going quite as planned.

It seems to have come around so quickly.  I was just getting myself sorted. Just used to how the routines ran and worked.  Just feeling like I was getting to know the amazing community that exists here – and boom – all change (again).

Point to note number one: Ex-pats leave town really quickly. 3pm school finish. 5pm car to the airport.  For those of us who have stayed around a little longer, it becomes a ghost town pretty swiftly.

Point to note number two: Kids aren’t just breaking up for the holidays.  Families are not just heading off on a nice two-week sunny vacation.  Families are leaving – for good – and lots are departing much quicker than anyone expected (themselves included.) Such is the temporary nature of ex-pat life.  Friendships are formed, and then ‘lost’, quicker than in normal life.  The fact that they get formed quicker is a good thing, yet also a little challenging I think – and I’m only on round one of this cycle.

Point to note number three: Time passes very quickly out here.  Our (almost) 11 months out here has gone by in a flash.  We transitioned from ‘newbies’ to feeling like locals before we even realised it – and it will soon be our turn to pay it forwards and welcome the newcomers into town.  To help them adjust, settle, integrate.  I am excited and amused by the fact that people will think of us as ‘experts’ out here.(Ha! How little they know!)

And all of this brought me round to thinking about how odd it is that I have 3 children, one of whom is now 7, and I have never yet spent a whole summer with my kids.

In the UK, I always worked.

The children were all at nursery in their early years – and so I had no childcare issues to worry about.  Nursery was always open.

8 – 6.

51 weeks a year. (Luckily the office closed for Christmas in the same way nursery did.)

When our eldest started at school, we were worried about what we would do to cover the 6 week summer holiday.  We planned summer camps. And split vacation leave. Plus a week together somewhere in the middle.

But in the end, we didn’t need that plan because Number 3 arrived and Hubby scheduled his Paternity Leave to kick in as the school year ended.  I went back to work.  Hubby had some quality time with the 3 of them (or something like that.)  Summer survived. Jobs in tact.

Then there was last summer.

Moving to Shanghai at the end of the school year was an extreme way to deal with the summer childcare issues that would have faced us – but it did the trick.  I honestly don’t know how we would have managed the 6 week break without feeling stressed, full of guilt (about both the kids and work) and without being significantly lighter in the bank balance department.

And now there is this…

My (first) summer of children

So the Shanghai plan has allowed for me to create what is my first summer of children.

Today was my last day in the office for two months.

We fly back to the UK on Saturday – with Hubby in tow for the first week – and then I get three weeks of me and the kids. Before we head off to Helsinki to meet up with the Hubby again and disappear off to a little lake house for a week – to celebrate a big birthday of mine, in a rowboat, on a lake, in the never-ending sun of a Finnish summer!

(Please let it be warm. Please let it be warm. When I’d sold the idea of making use of connecting flights to the hubby, I know he had been thinking of Bali or Thailand – and I appreciate the good humour with which he has accepted Finland!)

I’ve given myself some homework tasks for those quiet evenings when the kids are asleep and I’m on my own. And I have a plan for my return to work come the end of August. And I know how lucky I am. To have been able to design this plan and then put it into action.

Because after this year of upheaval and excitement and adventure, I am so looking forward to my summer of children.

I have (almost) no plans. (Which I will admit, for me – the planner, is a little frightening.)

I have good (no, great) friends helping us out (above and beyond, as always) – sorting meet & greets and places to stay, and tea and wine and the sort of catch ups that never-ending friendships allow for.

And we will play.  We will sit outsides in the fresh air (when the weather allows for it.) We will go to bed late.  We will swim and get messy. (We will argue and shout and have many a tantrum, I am sure – and that’s not even taking the kids into account!)

And I will be forever grateful for the mere fact that I have this time.  (It was not something that had ever crossed my mind as a possibility while I was a working parent in the UK.)

To make some more memories with the family – with people and in places that will stay in our hearts forever.  That we will talk about as we return to the crazy that is Shanghai.

And we will then have completed one full cycle of expat life.  And we will be raring to go for round two.

Bring it on.

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