Being on the road for a month has taken its toll on Liam. On all of us, really, but he’s been having what my mom calls “sinkers” on a pretty regular basis. If he were a girl, I’d say he’s getting his period, but he’s a ten year old boy, so I don’t think that’s the right explanation.
He loved Paris when we were there…until he hated the weird pizza, the strange hot dogs, and the bizarre toilet flushing mechanisms. And he thought London was great, until confronted by traffic patterns and crosswalks that didn’t make any sense (to him), milk that didn’t taste like the milk at home, and more toilets with bizarre flushers.
At the root of his sinkers, of course, is a mixture of homesickness and anxiety. He misses his friends terribly and has written them postcards and emails, but you know? Ten year olds just don’t find much solace in written communication. Their texts to one another are a mixture of insults and soccer scores. He’s really worried about starting his new school in Abu Dhabi: the other kids will think he’s a freak because he’s so small (and here’s why) he won’t find a soccer team, he won’t make any friends, when he gets back to New York his soccer skills will have eroded so badly that he won’t be able to rejoin his travel team.
The poor guy: I think his mental image of “London” was just a series of green fields filled with kids playing soccer and that he could just wander over and join a game. Alas, despite all time we’ve spent in parks, both here (and in France), we’ve not seen anyone playing soccer.
On the one hand, I want to shake him and say that pizza tastes weird because in Paris you’re not supposed to be eating pizza; crosswalks make sense for London traffic; hot dogs taste weird under the best of circumstances and milk is milk, so just shut up and drink it. As for the funky toilets and why they can’t just flush like a good old US potty? I’ve got no answer for that.
On the other hand, of course, my heart cracks for him. It’s hard to live out of a suitcase for any length of time and to do so with the knowledge that you’re not going “home” but to yet another strange place is even harder. And of course he’s worried about starting a new school—we’re all worried about what’s next.
When he crashes and cries, snuffling into his pillow about being scared and lonely and sad, I sit next to him on the bed, rub his back, and tell him it’s all going to be okay, that we’re sure he’s going to make friends, find soccer, like his new school.
Usually I can soothe him to sleep and when he wakes up the next morning, his world looks less gloomy.
His anxieties feed my own, though, so that I lie awake in the dark while every terrible possibility (terribility?) floats through my head and the “what ifs” ricochet around my brain.
I’m sure it’s all going to be fine, I tell myself in the morning.
But in the middle of the night, I think, “what if it’s not?”