Eight thousand pounds, ten suitcases, three car seats, and a mammoth-sized double stroller. That is how we move from place to place. Our lives measured in mass. The “things” we take with us as we circumnavigate the globe.
Every time we pack up and unpack I ask myself, do we really need all of this stuff? All of these things? What would become of us if we couldn’t bring these things with us?
Before I became a parent, I wasn’t so concerned about having our things. It was always nice to receive our personal items and make our new house a home, but we could do without. While on assignment in Sudan, our household shipment took a year to arrive and be released at the port, at which point we only had one more year of our assignment left. Surprisingly, we found it pretty easy to live without our things.
But then I became a parent, and we acquired all of the things that come along with that wonderful privilege – toys, blankets, cribs, clothes, plastic plates, bottles, kid-proof cutlery, safety gates, bikes, trikes, scooters, hot wheels tracks, mountains of Legos. All of the things that entertain kids and make them happy (so we think). Times three.
Somehow our things mushroomed from two thousand pounds to eight thousand pounds overnight.
With three young children and all of this stuff, it then came time to move — not once, but twice (internationally) in one year. The first was a move from Thailand to Washington, D.C.; the second from Washington, D.C. to Poland. And with each move came new regulations about how much of our stuff we could take with us and how long it would take us to receive it. And naturally, as parents do, I worried about how the kids would fare without their things. How will they keep themselves entertained? Won’t they be bored? Won’t they miss their stuff?
And then the test came. In Washington, D.C. we were allowed 1/12th of our unruly-sized load of things. This actually turned out to be a very good thing. We got out to explore often – every day – and many days, multiple times. We lived near trails of every kind, streams, baseball and soccer fields. There must have been ten playgrounds within a mile radius. Libraries, museums, nature centers. Most within walking distance. By getting out, it became increasingly clear that the kids didn’t need their “things,” that in fact, those things become pretty unimportant when there were was so much exploring to do.
Their happiness was not predicated on whether or not they had their stuff. They were just as happy as before; if not, more so at the excitement of discovering new places.
After a wonderful year in Washington, we moved to Krakow, Poland last month. Our things arrived in several different shipments over the course of six weeks. It was amazing to watch the kids use what little they had at the beginning to easily amuse themselves. Crib mattresses became trampolines, our back yard became a place of adventures, plastic tubs became swimming pools, and moving boxes . . . you name it, and moving boxes turned into all kinds of things from forts to art tables and clever hiding places. And just as we did in D.C., we are exploring. We are exploring our neighborhood, the main square downtown, the forest, the zoo, castles with dragon caves (yes, you read that right), biking trails, outdoor fountains, ice cream parlors, chocolate shops.
On Friday, the last shipment of our 8,000 pounds arrived. As I look around, I realize how easy it would be to simply. To cut down the clutter. To purge all of the things we don’t need and choose to get out and explore as an everyday way of life. Kids are the best versions of themselves when they use their imaginations. Less really is more. Happiness is not about what they have, but about who they are with. So what does that mean for us? It means we will slowly be letting go of our “things” over the next three years and lightening our load before we embark on our next overseas adventure. And I’m sure the movers will thank us for it.
Have you ever felt the need to cut down on all of the “things” you own? Have you thought about how you might do this (i.e. – by donating to local orphanages, Goodwill, etc.)?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Loren Braunohler. Loren Braunohler is a former U.S. diplomat turned stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. She is a world traveler who avoids the cold (don’t ask why she is currently in Poland). Former assignments have included Mozambique, Venezuela, Australia, Sudan, Thailand and Washington, D.C. She enjoys running, although she probably enjoys sleep more. Loren blogs about her family’s international adventures and parenting at www.toddlejoy.com.
1. Where in the world do you live? And, are you from there?
Currently, I live in Washington, D.C. with my husband and three children (ages 1, 2, and 4). Our family is constantly on the move because we are a U.S. Foreign Service Family. We just returned to the U.S. after nearly four years in Bangkok, Thailand, where both of my daughters were born and my son grew up, and will be moving to Krakow, Poland in the summer of 2015. I was born and raised in Florida, but I spent my high school years in Singapore.
2. What language(s) do you speak?
I speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Thai — some better than others!
3. When did you first become a mother (year/age)?
I first became a mother at the age of 31, when my son Logan was born (2010).
4. Are you a stay-at-home mom or do you work?
It was always my intention to continue working after I started my family (previously I was a U.S. diplomat serving in Mozambique, Venezuela, Sudan, Washington, D.C. and Thailand), but after the birth of my first child, I knew instantaneously that I wanted to be home with him — and other children we might have — in order to nurture them and watch them grow. I was fortunate to be able to make the choice to stay at home and although some days are more challenging than others, I’ve never regretted the decision to leave my career in order to be at home with my children.
5. Why do you blog/write?
I write for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I enjoy writing. I’ve always written – whether in a journal, for major publications, or on my blog. I express myself best when I write. I love being able to chronicle our family’s journey around the world on my blog, Toddle Joy. I also enjoy being able to inform other parents about traveling with their families to places that we’ve lived and visited. I love discovering new vacation spots and/or activities and being able to share that with others!
6. What makes you unique as a mother?
I like to be on the go. Whether it’s traveling to a new location or checking out a new local museum, library, or park, I like to be out and about. I think my children have followed in my footsteps, because they cannot bear to be home for more than a few hours at a time before they are ready to get out and explore too. Luckily, my husband’s job affords us the opportunity to move around the world to new locations every few years. Suffice it to say, we never get bored. It’s perfect for us!
7. What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world?
I like to encourage my children to be outgoing, courageous, and inquisitive. I feel like there are some places in the world where they can do that freely and I don’t need to worry about their safety. In other places, I worry more about their safety. I want them to be able to trust others, but also have a sense of street smart about them.
8. How did you find World Moms Blog?
A dear friend of mine, Ana Gaby Turner, introduced me to World Moms Blog. We lived together in Thailand and are now both in Washington, D.C. We’ve shared many of the same overseas experiences and have children the same ages.
These interview questions were answered for World Moms Blog by Loren Braunohler. Photo credit: Loren Braunohler.
We started informally homeschooling our son, Vito, this September. It’s nothing structured, nor do I have lesson plans or anything written in a schedule. We basically play, explore, ask questions, converse, and repeat the process. Every time I observe my son learning something new these days (or gaining new insight from a previous experience), I am amazed and grateful that he is a curious, always-inquisitive little boy.
These past few months, my son has been enamored with animals. Today’s “lesson” involved making animal words using play dough. We made out words like “lion”, “cow”, “tiger” and more using red, green, purple and brown play dough. If I were to document today’s experience, I would say we focused on developing his fine motor skills, vocabulary and spelling, as well as a handful of other concepts, such as colors, matching, left-to-right order, etc. Pretty neat, huh?
(Tomorrow, it’s likely to run the same way, but perhaps I need to get out my encyclopedia so that I don’t run out of animal names to spell out. I don’t mind; I’m just glad as long as he’s engaged, excited and eager.)
As I pack up my belongings and go over for the hundredth time the list that I have prepared for my caregivers in my absence, a sharp panic rises in my blood. I flush and realize I am sweating profusely and almost in tears.
For what I’m about to do feels about the most unnatural thing a mother could ever do: Freely leave her children.
In only forty-eight hours, I will be boarding a fifteen hour flight to China leaving my two young children at home with my husband and mother who will watch them while I’m away. It is my choice. (more…)