If you like novelty, we live in a wonderful city for it; Washington, D.C. blooms with it. The patriotic stuff abounds, one-of-a-kind odes to the wonders of mankind, our favorites of which are Air and Space Museum and the U.S. Capitol Building. And almost with apology for all the pomp, this city is also great at the fun and offbeat. Where else can you see a government-sanctioned collection of bongs?
A year before, we just moved apartments a couple times: my kids were so small, for them that was just changing the walls and windows they peered at outside of their infant chairs or whilst up on their tiptoes. This time, though, we left behind an entire state, blooming preschool friendships, and a YMCA in walking distance of our house.
Once we finally got everything unpacked, I concentrated on building up my support system of other moms and potential babysitters, finding a gym and a church with a militaristic single-mindedness strange to my usually flighty personality. I knew the suffering that came with isolation, small children, and sharing a car with your working husband. MOPS did wonders on helping me establish roots, and acted as an oxygen mask over my face midflight while I turned to help the people in the seats beside me.
My oldest, barely five, didn’t bounce back as quickly. He often spoke of people he missed, and seemed angry and everything for a while, and I started waking up with him in the middle of the night all the time again, despite him being a champion sleeper before. I finally realized this was probably his coping mechanism – a spurn of all the novelty, and creating familiarity around him as best he can, as he settles into this alien world he finds himself in.
He asks me the same thing after every transition of his day: mealtime, naptime, coming back home from somewhere. “Do you want to play with me?” A scarlet thread weaving though his years, from when it was just grunts and coos to fully accentuated syllables. To be honest, it can be daunting. When I am not taking care of myself, I just want to withdraw, and he’s like a cat, coming towards the person most likely to try and escape. Every day, seemingly every five minutes, he pursues, Mama, the familiar one, the one who has been here since the beginning. There’s a pattern to getting down and laying on your belly and playing with Legos. Running around with Nerf guns, we yell the same things and hide in the same places, and for him it never gets old. He chases it with his whole heart. Fun, with the caveat of comfort.
“Fun” for my husband is formulating a plan and executing it. He picks a new tourist destination, figures out when we need to get there and what we need to bring, and drags everyone out of bed in time to go forth and conquer. The destinations change, but the weekends themselves stay the same, as we execute the same choreography of backseat squabbles, struggling to unfold the double stroller, and inevitably forgetting something important (or at least thinking we forgot it until I find it in the bottom of my purse).
As I transition from the old to the new, and I seek to have fun with my family in a completely different stage, I will listen close to the hearts of my children. As much as it pains me sometimes, as long as they need it I will sit with them and do the same thing over and over. Because I am loved, by the Unchanging One, who reminds me of His static, immovable majesty that transcends states and new schools and new jobs. For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed (Mal. 3:6).
I will carry that comfort to my little ones, because from the towering Capitol Building or the rolling rural fields we left behind, fun is where you are loved and safe. With you, Mama – with You, my God – the strange novelty of the new will not overtake me.
Rebecca Neyhard writes for fun and explores her new city of Washington, D.C with her husband and children.