I do not know how to love in moderation. My heart breathes a gentle intensity
As a Mom of four boys, I get asked two questions very often. How I do it? How do I manage, take care of and handle 4 boys each and every day? I usually reply that I actually have 5 boys, including Pete, my husband in the tally. (Nothing like some sarcasm to take a sincere question seriously).
The second question is how do I live so far from my family? That one, comes with a lump in my throat and a fake smile …we do the best we can, it isn’t easy … I say.
More than anything, I believe all things are possible with and when there is love. I think you can overcome any problem, struggle or disagreement, with love. I believe you can survive years of long distance relationships away from loved ones, because of the base of love.
As the saying goes, love, love is all you need. Let’s tackle the first question. I feel like I’d be fibbing to you, if I didn’t get a few things out of the way, before I pour you a glass of love filled thoughts. Living in Thailand has given me the gift of two beautiful helpers, who make my daily life easier, less stressful and the ability to be more present with my children. They handle the housework and chores and I’m able to focus on the kids and Pete and their activities, their school obligations etc.
They also allow Pete to work the hours he can, which is why we are here, for him to fulfil his passion. The second thing is, it isn’t always pretty. Real life with 4 boys can be overwhelming and loud and quite frankly an utter shitshow at moments. I’m not telling you a story when I say our life and the boys are filled up with love and surrounded in it, but they are also kicked around by each other, shouted at by a frustrated Mama and sat in timeout when any (or all) of the top 3 forbidden things have been done.
With that said, there is one thing I know for sure. The boys are my ultimate joy in life, including the 5th (Pete) who is really my first and true love. I dreamed of becoming a Mom when I was little, with a cute husband and children. When your dream comes true, the ups and downs, the hard times, sad times and utter crazy times are in perspective, because your dream became this reality. I am humble and grateful.
There are frequent moments of question, more so as they get older of, if we are doing this parenting thing right. As they say there is no manual and every child is different. I find balancing the boys and giving them exactly what they need is a juggling act. If one ball drops, the others fall and my job is to pick them up and try my hardest to put them back in the air and make everyone stabilised again.
Each of the boys has their own personality, they each march to the beat of their own drum. I love them all the same with a deep intensity. I often imagine my heart to be separated into something like a pie chart. Each of them owns a certain part of my heart, giving me and others in their little world the gift of who they are and what they shine at.
Brody, the leader and the socialite, he is kind and mature, an old soul, a friend to all. Parker, the caretaker, he gives his heart to those he loves the most, he takes care and pays attention to others needs, he will protect to the end. Camden, the mighty one, he is strong, confident and powerful and yet soft and gentle. He speaks up and fights for what he believes in. Ryker, our tiny buddha, gentle and calm. He smiles and laughs more than any baby I’ve ever seen.
When times are tough and I feel the stress they can bring, the love always steps in and takes over. I find when I am at my wits end that little smile kicks in from one of them or a hug arrives on my leg. They are gifts to Pete and I and the world. We often say how honoured we are to be chosen to raise them, no matter how many times we’ve bent down to pick up dirty laundry just next to the laundry basket, or chocolate off the couch they aren’t “allowed to eat on.”
Early on in my expat life experience the homesickness overtook me and I felt I was living half of my life here, in Bangkok and the other in the town where I grew up, where my immediate family lives in the USA. Which is odd really, because I haven’t lived in that town since I was 18 years old. Maybe not odd really, when the sign I walked by every single day for those 18 years said “Home is where the heart is.” We are creatures of our environment and I grew up with homemade cakes and cookies, sprinkled with love. I grew up with a pool in my back yard and a street that few cars drove down making it safe and fun for my siblings and I.
My parents worked hard, my Dad had two jobs, my Mom bounced being present for us and finding jobs that worked for our schedule and for her to be home at the same times we were. Most importantly, my parents showed us what it was to love, every single day.
Growing up with the love that I did, makes it hard for me to be away from both my parents and my older sister, Heather and younger brother Russ. Add in a gem of a brother in law (now, my big brother) and their 2 daughters and a son and my cup is overflowing with adoration and fondness for them all. Stepping away from them and not being a part of their lives has always been hard for me. Pete and I moved away to the mid western part of the US from the East coast after college, 5 years later we were back by family, moving jobs, selling our home to make this happen. Fast forward 4 years and we found ourselves this time, moving away with our 3 little sons to the other side of the world.
A friend of mine told me early on, if you love your family you’ll probably never fully enjoy where you are living if you are away from them. That’s where my body jolted and I thought, because of love? I surely can’t have this attitude for the next three years I thought. Mind you, those three years have turned into 4 and will probably, likely be 6 in total by the time we return to the place we call home.
Instead of not embracing my experience and life here, my thought and mantra is this. Due to the strong feelings of love I can do this, due to love we can all get through this and because of the bond and immense feeling of love, we will survive this experience and end it closer than ever before. The boys will learn this with us hoping someday this stays a part of them as well.
The summer months bring us back home to that family and close friends. We spend time visiting and sliding into our families lives. There is such an embrace that is felt. The kids snuggle into everyone that hugs them, knowing the clock is ticking on our most used hashtag “allweneedislove”. They are spoiled and given endless opportunities to have fun and adventures with Grandma’s and Grandpa’s, Aunt’s, Uncle’s and cousins. Rarely is No said, like it or not, you can’t say many No’s to adults who love these boys and only get to have them a few times a year, and that is easy for me to accept.
As my nieces get older, they understand and feel the pain of seeing their cousins go after months summer of fun. This year was one of the hardest. Caitlin, 10 and Cara, 8, full of tears, looking exactly like my sister and I. Leaving me with the feeling that they are old enough now to feel how this feels. And also they too, living the reality of being brought up surrounded by strong bonds and unconditional love they have the quality to, to love and love hard and what that pull hard on your heartstrings is like.
We chose to focus on the good. We try hard to choose happy. We live in acceptance that this is our journey and although we don’t have our families alongside us living it and experiencing it, we do have them in our hearts. There is also our obligation and our centre to be there for our children and support them in every way our parents did for us. As I’ve gotten older, living most of my 30s in Bangkok I’ve come to a stronger and greater grip on what my job is now and what I am responsible for, and that is Brody and Parker, Camden and Ryker and always Pete. Love is our baseline and as the saying on the wall next to our kitchen table says “In this house we are a family. Love each other. Laugh a lot. Be happy, truthful and grateful.”