Week 2

My 2nd week here in Romania has been quiet, but full of learning from the kids in particular.

More than anything, I have come to recognise how grateful I should be for my own children, and what effect normal upbringing has as opposed to not much upbringing. As I have said before, each of the kids at the village is a sweet person. But I have come to see some common traits in them too, which I know I have worked to channel in my own children without thinking about it most of the time.

One is that most of the kids have so sense of value of things. In their world, things (such as toys, books, pencils etc) appear, and if they trash them, more will appear. It happens by magic. And so, they don’t think twice about destroying things or just flinging them over their shoulder after they have finished with something. It’s paradox that they are actually in quite dire situations and will have to come to terms with starting at 0 once they reach adulthood, but that living in this village supported by the government and donations actually teaches them the opposite of being frugal. The cycle of having to work to gain something just doesn’t exist, so how are they going to realise this? My kids see me working, and they know about our family finances, our income and our normal expenses. In my opinion, this is something that could be improved at the village, maybe by having a store in the village instead of magically replenished supplies, meaning that kids within a family will come to realise that resources are limited and need some care and thought.

There are also issues with aggression – which is to be expected. I have been teaching my kids how to deal with feeling aggressive for ever, and it still comes up sometimes, so how should I expect the kids in the village to be able to deal with it? I am not quite sure what could help in this area. I remember that at school there was a natural system where the older kids regularly brought the younger ones in line. I remember one situation when a guy from my class tried to pick a fight with some other guy in the first year at “the big school”, aged 11. A boy from the upper classes (must have been about 17) stopped him, and the main message was that violence was despised and who and where did he think he was? This one occurrence worked wonders, and it kept on working well as long as I was at the school. So maybe the natural authority of the older kids could be used, which would also help them taking on responsibility. I also think that there has to be a strict set of rules that counts for all kids. No punishments, but simple rules like “move away from somebody if they are being aggressive” – “get an adult to help in an argument instead of it developing into a fight” – ” if you are a threat to other kids and cannot control your violence, the natural consequence is that you will have to stay within the vicinity of an adult who will control you” – “always talk, state what you want, why you want it, and listen to what the other person has to say”. This should be published to anyone involved in the village to help develop a stable understanding and give the kids a system that they can use within the village, at school or anytime later in life.

Another difficult point is the overall organisation of the holiday times. There are some people who give certain lessons regularly, others (like me) who are there for a certain period of time, and the families also have some sort of programme, such as any other natural family would also have. As these 3 sources for activities are not very coordinated, it often ends in chaos. Bearing in mind that these kids come from difficult backgrounds and have problems with consistency, concentration etc, I think they would benefit more from having a fixed programme that they can sign up for and also contribute to. Therefore, they would know in advance that somebody called Anna would be around making papier mache figures from mon-fri 10-12, and after finding out what that is, they could sign up for it (or not). If they sign up for it, the expectation would be that they take part for the whole activity, not just for one day of it. They would also have the option to offer courses themselves. One boy gave me a skateboarding lesson the other day, after being very doubtful whether that would at all work, seeing that I am a girl. You should have seen his happiness when his instructions started showing effect! Kids are talented. They are usually not little Einsteins, but I know one who would be able to give drawing lessons, another who could teach all sorts of gymnastics tricks, some more who could teach clapping games etc.

Some of the kids have appointed me as their personal translator, which I am just a teeny weeny bit proud of. Of course, this only means that they know they have a greater chance of me understanding them than with any of the other volunteers and it doesn’t say much about how well I have mastered the language until now – but it still feels good.

All in all, I can see myself doing this again. I would know what to expect next time, and might be able to coordinate things better upfront. It is definitely doing me good to have this time to grow for myself, without work being a major block in the road and taking up most of my time and causing so much frustration. I am happy here, when at home I would just be missing my kids and worrying about them. As I am in the city, I have time in the evenings to meet up with new and old friends easily and spontaneously

Adventures

So, here I am, somewhat settled now, after a few days of finding my way around the neighbourhood, getting used to how things work at the children’s village and juggling that with normal work (which is only more or less successful, but that was to be expected).

The kids at the children’s village are lovely kids to be working with. They each have their issues due to their past and present situations, but most of the time they are loving, open-hearted, interested and helpful little people. They can be a bit out of control sometimes and have little self-control in certain situations, but they will also come running to the gate when I arrive, or just come up for a hug for no reason at all, and all sorts of other lovely little gestures.

The day I arrived was a little chaotic. I had a late flight, and arrived in the city at about 10:30pm. My airbnb host had already said that she might be a little late, and had told me on the phone that she would send a friend to meet me at her address where I could stay until she came. She said this would perhaps be half an hour or so, so no problem there. However, when I reached her house, I called her and she told me that she was still in the middle of nowhere and that she had arranged for her neighbour to let me in to his place, where I could also sleep if I wanted to, as she was going to be much later.

Now, this neighbor is a heavy smoker and a single man living in a big mess.

I had no intention of closing my eyes for one second there, and if I could have held my breath for the 3 hours that I spent there, I would have gladly done so. I swear I could feel my lungs shriveling up every passing minute. By the time my host got back I was no longer a happy person.

Anyway, I spent the next day exploring the area, finding breakfast (soya milk for my tea!), buying a few things for my projects at the village and picking up a heavy bunch of newspapers at a hotel that had been saving them for me.

At the village there were about 15 volunteers this past week, and about the same number of kids. It was a little chaotic so I decided I would just keep in the background, get to know some of the kids a bit and take a look at what kind of things the other volunteers were doing.

They are all young students, some studying pedagogics, others not, but none of them have any real experience with children, nor do they speak a word of Romanian. There is only one other girl who does speak a little. They seem to be doing games mostly, which usually kind of disintegrate after a few rounds.

I started my first project the next day. I have three things vaguely planned – animals made from papier mâché using balloons to form the general shape of the body, some “scientific” experiments and kids yoga. I started the papier mâché figures first, which are a huge hit. At first there were only some 5 kids around, and I started them off making pigs and cats. The following day I had kids asking whether they could also make pigs and there were actually too many to deal with on my own. As I mentioned, they have issues, and patience is not one of their strengths (in general). Also, they easily get engrossed with blowing balloons up again and again and don’t seem to readily understand that if they keep doing that (and the balloons subsequently burst in the sun), there won’t be any more balloons left for the animals they wanted to make in the first place. So I’ve started being a little more strict and explain these things to them, trying to show them that the problem is not them personally going through 10 balloons in as many minutes, the problem is everybody doing this. The same as I have done many times with my own kids.

Next week I will start the yoga sessions. There will be fewer volunteers there next week and more kids, so I feel confident that it will be a little less chaotic. I also have a better feel for the kids now and know that I will have to introduce some rules for yoga, such as “no laughing at anybody during or after the session” and things like that. I’m looking forward to doing the first yoga story with them now; a week ago I was dead scared…

Otherwise I’ve been out and about in town, I’ve done yoga with my host, I’ve been running in the park (but I feel I should find somewhere to run where there are natural paths instead of tarmac everywhere), I’ve been meeting up with people and working of course. Some of the people I have met online who live here are such inspiring people – being here and being able to spend time with them for realz is worth so much.

And yet again I feel completely safe and at home here, and more and more confident speaking without falling back on English. My host assumed I had Romanian roots but had grown up somewhere else, she was very surprised when I explained that actually I was English with no Romanian history whatsoever.

Tonight I stayed in as I seem to have caught a bit of a runny nose and didn’t sleep well last night, which is why I am here blogging instead of being out J

Next week will bring D back to town, which makes me glow with anticipation every time I think about it. I am looking forward to simplicity together, to being able to spend time with each other without the pressure of only having a very limited number of days, and to being able to reconnect far away from the internet again.

I’m so glad life has led me to be here right now. I don’t think I could be in a better place. I feel I am doing something sensible with the kids here, I’m growing myself and my belief in myself by doing things that initially seemed quite scary, and I’m strengthening trust in my intuition by following along this trail in the first place.

Thank you, Life!

The Shelf

There is a shelf where are all the broken hopes and dreams are kept, to be taken down from every few years to be looked at, then placed back again with a sigh.

Hopes and dreams are all very well. I have a shelf like that too. Singing professionally is up there, so is painting, and dancing is there too. I have also temporarily shelved some things, such as traveling outside Europe, singing regularly, and living somewhere where I feel comfortable and at home.

Sometimes I have put people on that shelf too. But people don’t stay on those shelves. They leave a trace, that is true, but when you go back to your shelf every so often, you will find that the people you may have placed there are gone, leaving only a shadow behind. They leave quite suddenly from my shelf – one moment they are there, even if they may be starting to look a bit faded, and the next moment, they are gone. I am sure they make a decision to get off the shelf and creep away before I can place them back. You can’t keep people on the shelf against their will.

I feel placed on such a shelf myself at the moment. I keep trying to get down, not to creep  away, but to be a real person again, not jammed on that shelf with all the other shattered hopes. But every time I get down, I am met with something that feels like “no, no, you are a broken dream, you go back onto the shelf where you belong”. And so, that’s where I am put again. I’m sitting between the happy family and simplicity.

I’m not going to creep out just yet. I have no inclination to do so, and there is no place I wish I was instead, apart from off the shelf and in reality.

I just feel so confused every time I do muster enough courage to get down and join the real life going on. There I am, as real as anything, and ready be to exactly the same person as I was before I was declared broken. I definitely haven’t changed since then! But however I behave, whatever I do or don’t do, say or don’t say, I am unable to gain the right to stay off that shelf.

Maybe I’ll just stay on the shelf for a bit and just concentrate on quietly looking after myself.

 

The Good And The Bad

Once more, my emotional self is thoroughly lost. I feel I should have an idea of how this life and people thing works by now, but apparently I don’t. Maybe life took me a bit too seriously when I said that I believe in taking chances that might end up in hurt. Maybe I’m being taught a lesson about looking after my heart better, and not letting myself be so vulnerable all the time.

Time will tell I suppose, what all this is about, and what I was supposed to learn.

I really don’t get the obstinate silence after wanting to be in touch more. I don’t get the zero effort to get in touch. I don’t get the unavailability as soon as it is in connection with talking properly.

And I don’t get where my faith is coming from that this is just circumstances and not intended the way it seems to the logical mind.

Whatever.

My car is broken, I had a pretty scary drive home today, because the electrics kept giving up on me. The steering wheel was juttering, with the power steering going inactive every few seconds, the ABS and EPS warning lamps kept flaring up and beeping, the electric handbrake wouldn’t loosen, so I was stuck for a few minutes half in half out of my drive until the electronics came on again for a second. The window will just have to stay open over night, as it wouldn’t close.

Of course I was too late out of the office to take it straight to a garage. So this will be a new adventure for tomorrow. I still haven’t finally decided which garage to take it to. Shortest drive + impossibly long train ride to the office (or 30 km bike ride…) or longer drive + easily cyclable journey to the office?

On another note, I will be starting my volunteering project in a month (!) already. I have quite a few yoga sessions planned out already, though I am definitely lacking some words which I still have to learn, like “icebreaker”, “pidgeon” and “dodo”. Other than that, I have one source of old newspapers for papier mâché. (If anybody in Bucharest would like to collect old newspapers for me for a month or has a good idea of where I could ask, I would be very grateful! So far, I am asking at hotels…) I also have a flight booked, but that’s about it. I guess I should probably be doing some more organising instead of publicly feeling sorry for myself on the internet.

I’m really excited about the whole idea of this volunteering project, in a very good way. I have little idea about what exactly to expect, but I feel sure I will be able to do something useful and fun while learning all the time myself of course. Definitely better than rotting away in the office! Maybe it will even be the start of a new path leading goodness-knows where – wouldn’t that be exciting and liberating!

I wish I knew where things were leading to in general though.

I’m glad I don’t have uncertainties like this when it comes to the kids. At least I know what I’m doing where they are concerned.

I will be planning for IGCSEs for the eldest after summer, who has also mentioned that he would like to try school for a year or so in a few years. And if he goes to school, my guess is that the other two will want to go too – provided he likes it of course.

After my yoga practice, I have made a habit of picking two or more things that I am grateful for each day. The children feature in this exercise of mine nearly every day.

Which is a nice, positive note to finish off such an erratic and confused post.

Confused

I’m thoroughly confused, and the confused thoughts and feelings are playing tag in my head. I should really just turn my attention to something else while they sort it out by themselves, or until the question marks become insights. But then – I’m not very good at that.

We were in touch again. Not as close as I like and I know we would be without the distance, but not out of touch like it has been.

But now, there is this chronic unavailability again. But only on the one hand. This did not stop a conversation going towards very specific adult desires, prompted by a simple selfie. Just like a few weeks ago.

But you must understand. I can’t. I can’t go back to that without being in touch emotionally, and without knowing that I am more than mere fun. If this was a fun only arrangement, it would be fine. But it never was and never will be.

And then the game of tag starts. What if… what if he thinks I have turned prude? What if this will support his assumption that I don’t trust him enough? What if this is what he needs to get back into touch again? I could try it out and see what happens. But then I might end up feeling even shittier. Risking being hurt is one thing, something I think is always worth the risk, but risking feeling abused is quite another matter.

I want to share this kind of fun again. I long for it. But I can’t risk feeling used in the end. And I would feel used, if it was only fun on his side, because of my feelings. And because I never want to feel used by him, I can’t go back to having that kind of adult fun without feeling emotionally safe.

Funny how I wouldn’t have these thoughts and worries about the whole thing if it was anybody else. And however easy it would be to get some (real) fun and maybe some (real) friendly cuddles and emotional support from time to time from somebody else, I just don’t want it. I know exactly where I want to be and what I want, and anything else would make me unhappy and I would be running away in no time.

Meanwhile, I so hope that we will see each other in a months time. I fear we wont. I fear he will be unavailable again, or that somebody else will take priority again, like his brother and work did last year. I fear that all the little ideas and enthusiasm have disappeared again over this last period of unavailability. I fear that the negativity has taken over again, and there is nothing I can do about it.

 

Ways of a narcissist “co-“parent

Mr Ex has the kids with him every other week.

They don’t shower or bathe.

They don’t wash.

He doesn’t make sure that they change their dirty clothes (including underwear).

He does not have clean clothes for them – they have to take whatever they (…I…) think they might need themselves, in a rucksack.

They stay up until after midnight watching youtube crap, only to sleep until midday the next day.

He educates them only in typing and the eldest in his very own idea of philosophy.

The apartment is filthy and messy. They come back with socks encrusted with dirt – many times I am forced to throw them away, they are so dirty.

I can’t involve social services because we live in different countries – though only 30 mins apart. The kids don’t officially live with him, so the social services on his side of the border don’t get involved, and the social services on my side of the border can’t get involved because it is not in their country.

Apart from these obvious short-comings, he uses every situation to try to assert power.

There was this play-event going on that he wanted the kids to go to while they were with me. He sent me a picture of a flyer, nothing else. I told him, face to face, that we could talk about the event, if he was willing to pitch in and take the kids there. This is what I always do if there is anything the kids should attend while they are with him, as he wouldn’t dream of taking them to anything I would like them to be.

After that, I heard nothing until the night before the event.

The night before, I get a message “we will manage it!” and another picture of the leaflet, more scrunched up than the first time.

I have had enough of cryptic messages that mean something only in his head. I have had enough of having to guess which context he is currently thinking of. I am extremely good at guessing the correct context, as I have had lots of practice, but I don’t want to have to think myself into his world every time he says something to me. So I ask him the next day what he is talking about.

Turns out, he does want to pick the kids up. However, he fails to tell me when, or whether he will bring them back again, and when (round about) he will bring them back, but he is already on his way. I insist, and tell him I can’t decide until he has given me all the details. I give his a generic list of questions to answer for every event, as I always end up asking him these basic things because he never includes them. The questions are when? where? who? what?. Simple, and one would think that anyone trying to arrange a date with somebody would actually provide a date and time. But as this is not the case, I asked him to simply always answer these questions, because if he does not, I spend time and energy on getting back to him and asking these basic questions, I get frustrated because he only answers half my questions, and every event turns out to be a huge difficulty, just because of the amount of unnecessary communication that goes into it. In the end, only one of the kids were actually interested in the event, and I ended up explaining to him that the leaflet, which he waved about in front of my face again, does not include whether he will pick them up, when he will pick them up, and whether he will bring them back.

Now, this month there are two concerts my daughter should be playing at while she is at her dads.

So I sent the dates, the times, the locations, the event, and the times that I could pick her up as I guess that he won’t be into bringing her himself, as he has NEVER shown any interest in doing that.

No answer.

So, I remind him.

“Oh well, I can’t say, as you didn’t send me all the information I need. I have told you this a number of times – shall I repeat what I need to know?”

Apparently, so he says, his information requirements for making an appointment are different from mine.

Of course he hasn’t sent his “requirements”. He will have to make them up first. He has never had any questions about past events, I checked – BECAUSE I PUT ALL THE NECESSARY INFORMATION IN.

This is just his game. His way of trying to subdue me into doing as he says. His way of trying to assert power and make sure that I do whatever he tells me to do, and don’t bother him with requesting basic rules to be kept.

All this comes after yesterday. Yesterday it was my daughters birthday, and I visited her at her dad’s (“we always look forward to seeing you” – was his answer to my asking whether I could come. I nearly threw up, it’s so false). His girlfriend invited me in for a cup of tea. This is the first time I have been in his apartment, excluding the time I stormed in to get my ill 3 year old at pick up time, after Mr Ex had tried to tell me that he didn’t want to come to me.

The flat is filthy. They offered me a seat, which was covered in stains. I touched it before sitting down and it was covered in grime which I brushed off before I sat down on the edge of it. The table was covered in crumbs. The floor… There are boxes and junk all over the flat. My daughter showed me her room (finally, she does not have to sleep in the same room as her dad anymore!) which is ok, but it’s empty and naked.

I like his girlfriend. She seems detached enough from Mr Ex, stopping him from taking control of her like he did and still tries with me. We had a long chat in our common foreign language, in which she was complaining about him right under his nose. This is something I don’t join in on, but it’s still amusing.

After the visit, he wrote “it was so nice of you to come. *Daughter* was very happy”. The only reason he writes these things of course it to have a record of “co-parenting”, of proving that ‘he makes an effort, even if I don’t’, and of course to state that I am the outsider and he and the kids are a unit. I.e. He can be nice to me as long as I follow his rules. His rules being, I carry on as everything was during the relationship. I am the servant, he is the lord. Look, world, how unreasonable this bitch is being.

I wish I could see a way out of this. He does this kind of thing to the kids too, I’ve seen it happen. I tried counseling – but after the session, he just turned everything around, maintaining that the counselor had supported him and told me that I might be overdoing it. I am quite sure that this was never said. I’ve tried going to court – he managed to make sure that I wasn’t there at the hearing and made it look as if actually, he was the one who cared and I was just a mad woman trying to take his darling kids away from him, for which he cares in such a loving and thoughtful way. Next up is another trip to court, this time hopefully without mistakes and with at least a social inquiry at his place.

I am grateful of the fact that I find energy to stand up against this bullying every time it occurs, even though sometimes, I truly feel like just giving up.

Unsettled

I feel a need to write today, but I’m not quite sure what it is exactly that needs to be rolled into words and conveyable thoughts. So I’ll just start and see what comes of it.

I feel unsettled today. Unsettled in an emotional way – it’s a feeling of being not enough and failing at being the person I want to be.

I’ve had two weeks with the children. Two weeks of improving things again on the educational side – much to the detriment of the time I have been working. But that is just how it is – at least I now have blocks of time for work instead of being called away every 5 minutes by one of the kids. I am now sitting down with them for a couple of hours every day, in which they get their school stuff done. They all sit with me at the table, and I am available for them without being distracted by my phone, work or other thoughts. In consequence, they get through their stuff quicker, I am able to check what they are doing immediately and they are feeling their progress. They wouldn’t normally have accepted this change, as they have been trained to scoff at anything that seems too “school-like”. Only I went on a full blown rant just after they had got back from their father’s, after a day of reminding them all day long to get their tasks done only to find out late in the day that in fact, next to nothing had been done. Instead, my youngest tried to strike a deal with me, concerning the tasks that need to be done before he can watch mind-numbing youtube videos about mine craft. So random youtube is banned now, too, I was that frustrated. They don’t even miss it… instead, they have been building obstacle courses in the yard, reading, playing with lego, and generally being more active and happy. Sometimes banning stuff has positive effects.

So I suppose being a parent is something I haven’t really been failing at.

So why am I feeling ill at ease, and unsettled?

Maybe because I felt again this morning that I am putting too much weight into what passes – and what doesn’t pass – between myself and D. There have been quite a few positive, fun little (written) conversations lately. These kind leave a smile on my soul. Not the kind of  sparkles and bursting happiness of a year ago, but a cautious kind of deep, rounded happiness.

But then there are the kind in which we seem to be completely missing each other – as if there was a world between, two entirely different, unyielding and separate universes. They leave me aching and wondering whether I am just too stupid or blind to see the obvious.

I think this is what is happening today.

I wish I was really the “tough cookie” I am taken for. I’m not really tough. I only have resilience, and goodness knows where that came from. I am able to come back from set-backs and to act as if I am a courageous person, even if I’m scared to bits. On the other hand, I need a ton of inner healing after each set-back, and nearly anything can be a set-back. I wonder whether I am mentally healthy quite often. Or whether this is what depression is, or whether I am heading for any other kind of mental break-down. I have so little drive some days. So little energy to move myself to do things that make me happy. So much need to know that I am not alone, but no way to prove that to myself.

I need some kind of remedy for days like these. Something as foolproof as listening to Yo-Yo Ma playing the Cello Suites when I have just done something very scary and am waiting for the consequences. I hope I find something.

Missing you again

Those five minutes I reserved for myself today after getting home from orchestra practice –

How I wish I would have been able to turn to you and tell you how happy I feel in your embrace, instead of writing about my aching heart missing you being close.

Hello, Dot

Yesterday was a big day.

Apart from singing a concert (in which I messed up the first 10 bars completely but nobody noticed, they just noticed that I was a bit quiet…), I got to meet my nephew Dot. He is but a day old and has already seen two hospitals, unfortunately.

Dot had some problems with his sugar level first, and then showed signs of an infection, which is why he has been transferred to a children’s hospital, poor thing. Dot is also huge, leading doctors to suggest that my sister might have had undetected pregnancy diabetes.

So, Dot is a huge baby, unfortunately with a few cables hanging off him (why isn’t wireless technology used in hospital equipment for low risk observation???). I got to hold him until my arms were dropping off and I had run out of nonsense to say to a sleeping baby. He smells wonderfully of baby and makes the most delightful little noises.

There has been a prophecy in the family. One of my aunts is a healer and reckons that she is also a medium – and she told my mum some time ago that some old soul had told her that a baby would be born in the family soon, and that it would bring great healing to the family. I am a skeptical believer in this area, as I have may experiences which seem supernatural, but I also see that it is easy to go overboard with this kind of stuff. Some people start seeing supernatural powers and extra-contextual meaning in every fleck of dust.

I would like to believe in this baby – but I don’t think it’s Dot. Dot is teaching his parents a lesson about loosening up and not adhering to the ordinary, easy normality. He has already started putting them into situations they hadn’t anticipated and there are no rules for. My sister likes to do things “properly”, and I see things coming their way for which there is no “proper way”. She will rise to the challenge, and I hope her husband has it in him to do so too (he has certain “wimpy man” traits, which fits with my sister being the “strong girl” type…)

So,

Welcome to the family, Dot!

I look forward to seeing you grow and take your role in your immediate family as well as in the larger family. I look forward to being your crackpot auntie and doing auntie stuff with you. I look forward to seeing who you will grow up to be in all those years of the adventure of life ahead of you.