I was that mom.
I used to be dressed by 6:45am. Actually, dressed and out the door with three mostly dressed kids in the back seat. Drop them at daycare. Go to work. Work until whenever. Get them. Come home. Feed them. Drive ALL over to the next obligation; piano, supplemental piano, fencing, gymnastics, play dates, Lego club (really there is such a thing), ballet, t-ball, soccer, swimming, trumpet lessons, softball, drama club, Friday Club, and on and on. There were entire dinners eaten in the car. The back seat was a dressing room for kids with no time between school and the next 'thing'. I had collapsible furniture in the trunk ready to sit and wait- wherever that was.
Then we moved. And not just a little move. A big, gigantic, what I have done, move. And the crazy slowly came to a stop.
And this is what happened... I gave my kids their childhood back. I handed the whole thing over. Hours to do with as they please. The ability to structure their time as they see fit. Play dates weren't expected and didn't happen with the same frequency as they did in the US. Sisters became friends. Want to play Barbies on the patio for four hours in the rain? Sure. Want to take your scooter to go get an ice cream? Sure. Want to go shoe shopping with the teenage equivalent of the UN? Sure. Want to scooter down a mountain with a friend that makes you giggle with joy? Sure. She was still giggling even as she was telling me how it was two of them on one scooter and she had to brake so long and so hard she wore the sole of her boot out.
I've spent years literally dragging children from one activity to the next. Complaining when they complained: 'you are ungrateful', 'hurry up', 'other kids would love to do this', 'do you know how much this cost?'. Believing all the while it was my mom duty, my job, to structure their time hoping they'd find their passion. At six.
Here's the thing- I would have kept doing it. Because I thought that was what moms did. A lot of moms do. But it was wearing me and them out. And then something interesting happened. When left to their own devices, they found their own talents.
Lauren has a knack for languages. Who knew? She elected to go to Swiss gymnasium where she takes 5 out of 8 classes in German. And French as her 'foreign' language. Her French textbook is in German. She asked for extra German lessons on Sundays. Asked. And never complains about going. She doesn't sulk in the car on the way home or complain about the coach.
Sam has loved computers since he was small. This year he built two functioning computers. He joined the tennis team. I didn't even know they had a tennis team.
Caroline can scooter anywhere. She can also change buses by herself. And she sings. In the shower. In the car. With her friends. By herself. On stage. Off stage. She doesn't care. She chooses her after school activities. She recently dropped the Wednesday Club (who knows what they did) and joined the Science Club. I think she's hoping for a few explosions.
Maybe because all the crazy stopped, I was a better listener and heard what it was they wanted to do. Or maybe I was too tired to fight it anymore. But mostly, I think it was because we moved to Switzerland where people do things differently. I don't think too many people are eating dinner in the car. I only know of one drive thru locally. One. No coffee drive thru's, no ATM's, no Burger King, no Taco Bell (though, there is the drive-thru in Zurich where you order a prostitute instead of a hamburger). People don't work 70 hour work weeks. Sundays are family days. My car mostly stays parked in the garage. I shop locally. I buy what we need. A thirty minute car ride seems really, really far now. Kids get much shorter summers but in return many more breaks during the school year.
Kids are expected to be far more independent. Creative play, outdoor time, and problem solving are built into every day. One of the local primary schools behind me, has joined forces with two other primaries. They are all attending the same school for the week and putting on a circus for the local neighborhood- complete with a circus tent. I have a little friend who is going to be a lion jumping through a hoop of fire and another little friend who will walk on barrels. Kindergarten is a two year affair. First grade is still only four hours a day three days a week with two longer 'normal' days. Second grade follows the same pattern.
These years have been a gift. I know that. I know we are lucky and not everyone has the luxury to make such a drastic life change. I am also cognizant every day, that it's got an expiration date. I do wonder how I will take what I love here and blend it with what I love in the US. Or whether I will slip right back into being THAT mom. I would really rather just be Mom.