A Serious Chat…

5 Jun

Surprise, surprise. Today is a German holiday! Actually, yesterday was the holiday (Corpus Christi, 60 days after Easter to honor the Lord’s Supper) and today is a ‘Bridge Day’ which occurs anytime a holiday falls on a Thursday so folks can just segue right into the weekend. Ha! These folks have it all figured out.

Anyway, hard to believe that another week has come and gone. Even harder to believe is that we will be HOME a week from today! Can you believe it’s been nearly two months since we arrived here in Wiesbaden? It goes back to what I mentioned in one of my early posts- about days sometimes going by so slowly, but then you look back and wonder where the heck the time went because you just got here? That’s kinda where we are now. And I’ll go ahead and say that this post is going to be a bit different than most. I want to let you in on the more serious side of this adventure- to open up a bit about the true purpose of this trip since it can feel, for us, like an elephant in the room at times. Maybe try to think of this post as one big ‘Keeping It Real…’ With a few relevant GIFs thrown in just to make it worth your while 🙂

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We’re having a slew of emotions as the end of this adventure draws nearer. I swear we flip flop daily when we ask ourselves the big question, ‘Should we do this for 3 years?’ Some days we’re both on the same side; others we happily talk things over from our opposite sides of the fence. And some days we don’t talk about it at all- we avoid it at all costs because it’s easier to skip it 🙂

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Even Neve tends to be giving thought to things- some days she’ll talk alot about her bedroom at home, Mommy’s Jeep, her friends, spending the night with Goddess and Poppy as soon as we get home, Grandma’s rice, swim lessons and holding her breath underwater for 5 seconds (a feat that, apparently, can only be done in SC)…Other days, she’s more interested in where we’re going the next weekend, if she can have schnitzel for lunch, whether we’re going to ride our bike to the market to get dinner…On Monday, she even asked if ‘we could visit South Carolina, then come back to Germany.’

We knew that coming to Europe with a child would be different than any other time we’d been here. We also knew that making the decision whether to stay or go would center primarily around Neve. But it wasn’t until we got here and started seeing first hand what exactly it would all look like that we’ve really been hit with the magnitude of our responsibility at this moment as parents. Every parent wants what’s best for their child- which pediatrician is best, which school to send her to, whether to send her to school at all and at what age, do we trust someone else to keep her safe while we’re away…And yep, all of those are valid, necessary, significant decisions. But for us, this is the first time a decision feels monumental- almost a gut-wrenching task. Those that I just mentioned could all be changed and we knew that going into them. Don’t like the pediatrician we chose? Change to another, which we did. Don’t like the school we chose? Change (which we would never do because we hit the jackpot in that department!) But you get my drift. So many of life’s decisions can be changed if you find you made the wrong choice. Even if you’re certain you’re making the right one, it’s comforting knowing that there’s an out, right? So what happens when you have to make a decision that can’t be changed? One that you will live with for at least the next 3 years and could have an impact for so many years after that? To someone like me, who fears any situation- physically, emotionally, mentally- that ‘traps’ me, it’s terrifying. (Disclaimer: John is a civilian, so yes, he could technically change his mind, but it would have big repercussions and would realistically never happen.)

This is a decision that will alter the course of our life. Permanently. Whether we opt to move here for 3 years or to continue building our life in Summerville- or take a job elsewhere, for that matter!- any of those options will change where we’re headed and provide their own set of experiences, good and bad. So yeah, it feels big- mainly with regard to Neve. Her childhood will be 100% affected by whatever we choose. Do you know how heavy that feels? Of course you do- so many of you have children, young and old, and have likely been in such situations more than once. But John and I have only been members of this club for 3 years, so we’re still settling in. 🙂

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Over the last few weeks, several of you have asked about the pros and cons. We’re finding that there’s actually alot of grey area between the lists and several items that could actually be put on either or both lists, but here’s a jist, in no particular order:

Pros

  • Travel- it’s impossible (financially, proximally, logistically) to travel the same way in the States. Being able to show Neve so many different parts of the world, different cultures, different cuisines, different architecture…Hands down the biggest pro.
  • Financial- not only would John’s salary and cost of living increase, but our (very nice) German housing would be paid for and since we would rent (probably short term executive rentals) our Summerville house, that would mean living mortgage free for 3 years. A nice nest egg to come home to and a nice way to fund Pro #1.
  • Experience- just living in Europe would be such a gift in so many ways, one that many dream of. For us, for Neve…
  • Local Friends- we’re fortunate to have at least a few friends already living in Europe, so that definitely adds a sense of comfort. Not to mention that we’ve been getting to know several of the people- and their families- who John would work with. Germany isn’t known for as being an easy place to make friends, so this really helps.
  • Building Our Bond- a tough one to explain, but a definite front runner. Being a trio in a foreign country means that you rely solely on each other, which can’t help but increase your closeness. Facing challenges together, depending on each other, counting on each other for everything…It grows your sense of security and satisfaction with your partner. John and I are more of a team than ever. We are closer with Neve than ever. That’s certainly not to say that we don’t miss having multiple people to fulfill these needs- because we certainly do!- but since we don’t, we have no choice but to turn to each other, if that makes sense. Our family unit as ‘the three amigos,’ as Neve calls us, is strong.
  • Providing Experiences for our Families- This is one that may not make sense to everyone. Neither of our families have spent much, if any, time in Europe. My parents came over for a few weeks the last time we were here and we had the BEST time, both in Stuttgart where we were living and on the vacations we took with them. We both want more of those experiences with our families. We recognize that getting to and traveling through Europe is expensive and arduous and that us being over here would definitely help make it a reality.
  • Strengthening Relationships from Afar- This is another one that may not make much sense, but bear with me. One thing I’ve always said about our time with John’s family is that it’s always happy and meaningful. They live 10 hours away, so when we get to see them, it’s always festive and making up for lost time and planning things to do together and being together under one roof to eat breakfast and play board games at night in our jammies, etc. Things we only get with my family on Christmas Eve and our annual week in Myrtle Beach each spring. When you only have a limited time to enjoy each other’s company, you really make an effort to make the most of it. By having that distance, it will likely mean that there will be more of this when we’re together. No time taken for granted, no bickering, no putting things off until tomorrow…Just enjoying each other and being thankful to be together and making memories. Missing people can actually work in your favor- ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder,’ right? I will also add that in some ways, I’ve even noticed subtle improvements in my relationships with my parents just in the couple months we’ve been here. You see, it’s the same principal on the phone or FaceTime. You don’t get to talk often or for long (time zone differences and preschoolers can have that effect!), so when you do, you want to make the most of it. You focus on what matters and the little crap stuff that you might would’ve gotten bogged down in before just isn’t there anymore. And sure you ask about each other’s day and the weather, but you talk- and listen- with much more intention. Just like the last time we were here, I’ve had more ‘real’ one-on-one conversations with my Dad in these last weeks than I generally do at home. It’s really nice. (Disclaimer: Though it’s not a substitute for hugging his neck.)
  • Base Access- definitely a comfort knowing that we can go on base (there are 5 here) anytime we need a slice of home. American food court, grocery store, shopping center, fitness center, Neve’s school (if we went that route), planned activities…Even when we just find ourselves wanting to surround ourselves with English-speaking ‘friends!’ Something you notice the second you step on base is the sense of camaraderie going on, too- a heightened sense of ‘we’re all in the same boat.’ It’s a good feeling.
  • Neve’s School- this is one that straddles the line. On one hand, German school is very good and Neve is at a perfect age to learn the language quickly. We have heard many good things from other Americans who’ve chosen to put their kids in German school.
  • Culture Changes- another line straddler. One thing we have always loved as travelers is the culture shock that comes with spending any amount of time in any foreign country. When we are home for too long, we find ourselves craving ‘different.’ Different scenery, different people, different food, different experiences…

    Long one of my favorite travel quotes...

    Long one of my favorite travel quotes…

  • Excellent Public Spaces- we absolutely love all of the parks, playgrounds and public squares here. There is definitely encouragement to enjoy the outdoors.
  • Physical Activity- we love how much more emphasis there is in Europe for movement in daily life rather than total reliance on your car. Everyone walks, bikes, etc.
  • Family Encouragement- Germany is big on families and encourages quality time spent together. Ample holidays, festivals, etc. mean more time spent with loved ones. Never will you see anyone on their cell phones in a restaurant or cafe, even if they’re alone. The time is spent relaxing and enjoying. Restaurants and many pubs also don’t have televisions.
  • Satisfying the Restlessness- John and I are both restless souls. We get bored easily and are always ready for the next adventure. We’re seeing signs that Neve has inherited the bug, as well. Being here, and all that that entails, would most definitely quell those feelings.

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Cons

  • Family, Part 1- this is the single biggest reason we are so torn and is the one that permeates so many areas of the decision. It, together with Part 2, carries significantly more weight than all the others, too, which means that even if the con list ends up shorter, they’re not all created equally…This first area is solely from mine and John’s perspective. Selfishly, I’m an only child and my parents are completely central in my life. They are our best friends with whom we do so many things. The same is true for my grandmother- I have seen her at least weekly, much of the time daily for forever. This time that I spend with family is integral to my life and to my happiness. In other words, we are not a close family out of obligation or simply proximity, but because we choose to be and can’t see it any other way. The fact that we are such a small family only contributes to our closeness. Leaving this for three years…I can’t even fully process how that would be. And even though they aren’t John’s immediate family, he also struggles with the idea of being so far away for many of the same reasons- we’ve always been such big parts of each others’ day to day lives. (He has missed tinkering around the garage or the yard with my Dad so much since we’ve been gone!) We are close with John’s brother and sister-in-law who also live in Summerville. Can’t imagine not seeing them, and their sweet Norah, regularly. The rest of John’s family is in Kentucky, so it would mean even fewer visits with them. And the family we have chosen for ourselves- Andy, Sam and Chuck, Eleanor and Johnny…How could we be so far away from them?
  • My Mom- she’s my person and she won’t be here.
  • Family, Part 2- all of the above, but with Neve. Taking her away from all the people who love her most and who she considers the centers of her world. Giving up our support system and the ‘village’ we’ve always counted on to help raise her. The pain we know it would cause them by missing these formative years of her life, watching her grow. John and I both grew up surrounded by family and are the people we are today largely because of that- do we want to take that away from Neve, even for just 3 years?
  • Missing Out- this goes along with both of the above in terms of being a close family. My family celebrates birthdays, holidays, Tuesdays…We go to dinners, shows, pedicures…We stop at each others’ houses just to say hi…We all show up in full force at Neve’s school functions…Will I feel that I’m missing out on all of this going on at home without us? Will I feel that they’re missing out on all that will be going on here? Disclaimer: Of course we will make plenty of visits to the States. And yes, both families say they look forward to visiting, but no one- with the exception of my Grandma who could have her bags packed and be on a plane by this afternoon!- can really say how often they see themselves coming over or for how long. These unknowns are very difficult for me. We also recognize that the novelty will wear off for everyone, which brings about the logical concern that visits may get less frequent as time passes? Something else that is very scary for me.
  • Friends- We have a great group of neighbors- some of whom have grown to be great friends over this last year, a great group of parents and teachers at Neve’s schools- several of whom we consider true friends and true blessings in our lives, a great group of little friends for Neve, a great group of work friends through SPAWAR…Are we confident that these friendships would survive and continue to grow in our absence?
  • Neve’s School, Part 1- the other side here is the thought of her struggling to communicate, make friends, etc., especially initially. Then there’s the deciding whether to do German schools vs. American ones on base. The preschool on base isn’t terrific from what we hear and regular school (both German and on base) doesn’t start until first grade, so we’re left with what’s best in the meantime.
  • Neve’s School, Part 2- We are in wonderful preschool programs at home. We love the teachers, we love the parents, we love her classmates…Most importantly, we love that Neve loves her schools and that we can see all the benefits that she gets from them. Can we give this up?
  • Language Barrier- you take for granted all the challenges this presents as you don’t realize just how much you read and listen at home. Road signs, menus, grocery shopping, TV, radio, signs in a store window, weather bulletins…(I would sign up immediately for a German language course.)
  • Renting our House- We just built a brand new, amazing, perfect-for-us house and have only been enjoying it for a year. The thought of complete strangers living in it- and all the potential repercussions that come with that- is daunting and saddening, especially to me. (John sees this as more of a ‘we will just fix it exactly as we want when we get home.’) On the plus side, we would likely do high end, short term executive rentals which would give us much more control, as well as a place to stay when we’re in town rather than encroaching on family. Disclaimer: No, we would not have to rent our house- it could sit empty while we continue to pay the mortgage like normal, but that would completely negate Pro #2- the financial gain- a big reason we’re considering the move in the first place.
  • Culture Challenges- While exhilarating, these can also be frustrating, unnerving, isolating and tedious. Do we want the exhilaration enough to warrant the latter?

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Wow. Doozy of a post, right?! I knew within a paragraph or two of starting that this would be as much for me as it is for you- that getting my thoughts organized and on paper would be therapeutic. And I was right. I’m a list maker and an analyzer and an overthinker, so getting all of this out of my head and into a format that can be more easily processed is exactly what I needed. Wish I could say that I had some grand epiphany as I wrote- or at least a Magic 8 Ball a la 1989- but no. One can dream, right 🙂 One thing we HAVE decided is that there’s no right or wrong answer here. That both places come with great rewards and significant losses, both to us and to our families. We realize that, no matter which we choose, there will always be moments of doubt- and maybe even regret- in our decision. It’s just a matter of deciding which we’d rather have the doubts about, I suppose…

We’ve spent our time gathering as much information as we can to make the most informed decision possible, just as you might suspect from two Type A nerds like us. John has talked to any and everyone at work who is or has been in this situation (the overwhelming majority love it here, have no regrets, and several are even back for the second time after going home for the obligatory two years). We’ve looked into the details like our base access and my working here and Neve’s school options. We’ve looked at current available properties to get ideas about what homes in our price point might look like.  We’ve spent time driving around the city figuring out which areas might be best for us. Basically, we’ve tried to utilize our time here efficiently so that we don’t get back to the States with unanswered questions that would’ve been best handled from this side of the pond.

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Thank y’all so much for sticking it through to the end and putting up with my rambling! We welcome any and all advice, words of wisdom, random thoughts…Seriously. Oh, and I almost forgot. I’m working on a little Q&A post for next week, answering many of the questions we’ve gotten from you guys during our time here. If you’ve got any questions- from how to pronounce this to what are your real thoughts on that- please ask away so I can include them. Feel free to email them if you’d prefer- EAKThomas@hotmail.com. I won’t include names in the post 🙂

Thanks again for making it through my grown-up post 🙂

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2 Responses to “A Serious Chat…”

  1. Wendy June 5, 2015 at 8:07 PM #

    I will miss you and our annual festival hug! AND I miss you in general so there’s no change there. What an amazing experience you are having, are giving Neve! You are by far the best parents I know. And I couldn’t be more proud of you! NEVER REGRET ANYTHING THAT MADE YOU SMILE! And my personal favorite: A peacefulness follows any decision, even the wrong one. ~Rita Mae Brown I love you guys!!! PS~ Miranda is 17!

    • Erin T. June 10, 2015 at 3:26 PM #

      Wendy! For some reason, it didn’t let me know you’d commented! You are awesome and always have a way of making me feel good. Thank you for being such a dear friend for…how many years now?! The fact that MG is 17 is a pretty good indication. Jeez. Thank you again for the kind words and the perfect time. Love you.

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