Saturday, June 30, 2012

Where are we going?

One morning a couple of weeks ago, Zoe woke up and decided to pack. She took our little car suitcase (that she think is her own, despite me sometimes traveling with it myself) and started pulling her clothes down from the shelf, putting it inside. When she thought she had enough she zipped it up and pulled it through the living room into the hallway. There she put on her sandals and took down the keys from the hook, which she can reach herself. She then asked me to take her jacket and sun hat down, which I did and she put both on by herself. Then she 'unlocked' the front door with the keys (it was already unlocked), opened the door and said 'bye bye mommy', while pulling the suitcase out to the stairwell. At this point I had to stop her because fact was that we were not going anywhere that day, and I was seriously worried she was going to try to pull the suitcase down the stairs. But she cried as I explained that we were not going flying or even by train, this was a regular daycare day. It took me a few minutes to make this clear but finally she calmed down and we continued our regular morning routine.

Zoe leaving again
Although this might seem like a fun morning game, I felt guilty and sad because I knew exactly why she was leaving and why she thought this was just one of our routine travels: a week before this, I had moved out from our family home, into a small apartment close by, without Mark. I had taken Zoe with me but she would also go back and stay with Mark for a few days in a row. This might come as a surprise and I have not been very open about our difficult situation, not here, not to anyone in real life apart from my closest friends. But fact is that we have had serious relationship problems since we moved to Sweden, problems that got worse over the winter and culminated in April. It took me a long time to talk to Mark about how unhappy I have been with my situation and how much I felt he was not considering this or even realizing this, but it only took me a couple of weeks from then, till I decided to move out. I felt this was the only way I could gain back the independence that I had given up and missed sorely after we moved to Sweden. It was never my choice to move here in the first place and my work situation was horrible, but at the same time I didn't feel that Mark took this serious. My lack of integration and engagement with swedish people and the language is clear evidence of this. In some ways I didn't feel this place was real.

Moving a 2 year old for the 4th time in her life feels tough but splitting up her parents feels terrible. The guilt sucks me in every time Zoe wants something and I give in very quickly. She mainly sleeps in my double bed where I stroke her hair until she falls asleep instead of putting her in her travel crib and let her fall asleep on her own, which she used to do. I let her decide if we should eat inside at the table or outside on the balcony, even if that means moving mid-meal. But apart from her thinking we travel and move every week, she seems to deal with it well. She has not had any temper tantrums out of the ordinary and she does not cry and ask for me (or her daddy) at night. And Mark and I are amicable and settled on doing this in a way that she is the least affected by. We have two rules: One rule is that we make sure to do something all three of us one day a week. Today for example, I came over with breakfast and we went for a long walk through the city, after which we went for early dinner at a nice italian place. We went back and I gave Zoe a bath before Mark put her to bed. Rule number two is that we are working towards staying together, not splitting up. I might have needed to be by myself for a while, be independent and have my own life, but neither of us really wants out. We are planning a date next week and I hope that will lead to more couple stuff and eventually me moving back in. I try to stay optimistic. But right now, Zoe is of the belief that we move every 4-6 months because that is all she knows.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cheep fare, expensive ride

When returning from my partly involuntary vacation in Copenhagen (mixed in with a very voluntary midsummer celebration at my dear dear friend's summerhouse), I for some odd reason had chosen to take Zoe on the train. If it was the 250 kr ticket (vs. a 1200 kr flight) or the wishful thinking that she would sleep for most of it I'm not sure, but already one hour into it I would gladly have paid another thousand for a flight.

The problem for the next 13 years is that Zoe is a full fare on the plane but free on the train. This makes a set of train tickets, which would usually be slightly more expensive than a flight, approximately half price of flying between Copenhagen and Stockholm. Especially for the next 3 years where Zoe still is not able to fly by herself. When checking return journeys for this trip I had even found an extremely cheep train ticket because it would take us into Stockholm's central station as late as 15 minutes to midnight. Thinking that this would give me one hour of waking Zoe and 4 hours of sleeping Zoe I booked them. Except I forgot that when my lovely, regularly sleeping daughter stays with her grandmother for a week, her sleeping schedule will more likely resemble a teenagers with late nights and no naps. When I boarded the train at 6.30 pm it was with the most cheerful, awake, excited toddler who sat down in her seat, reading a book, eating cucumbers and almonds. After about an hour though it was an overtired, cheeky monkey, who wanted to run up and down the aisle that crawled all over me. She kept hitting me with her 'baaaang', not hard but also not appropriate and I had to tell her sternly that it is not nice to hit one's mom. Around this time people around me started asking the conductor if there were available seats in the quiet compartment. Others just looked for seats further away themselves. I took Zoe for a long walk through the train and we went back to the little bistro where I had a cup of coffee (to keep up with Zoe's energy) and she had a bag of cheese doodles that they conveniently place in child's height for her to pick out herself. Suddenly she started crying and wanted to go back to our seats, possibly because we had left her doll there but possibly also because tired kids do unpredictable things. I tried to coerce her into lying with her head in my lap and fall asleep but she could not find rest. She muzzled around for two hours while I managed to stay fairly calm despite her playing with the armrest, constantly popping her head above the seat to say hey to very uninterested people behind us and trying to get comfortable. Finally, at 10 pm, her eyes lowered and she fell asleep.

At the central station I surprised myself even more by packing up and rolling out our car suitcase and several bags while being able to carry a sleeping Zoe out of the train. There she woke up and wide-eyed walked with me while I told her what we had to do. We had to get up from the tracks, take a taxi and get in and up the stairs to our apartment. She did everything with amazing skills and easily fell asleep again in her own bed. All while I wrote down a couple of notes to myself in my head: "Do not take the train again any time soon, even if it looks like a good idea at the time".

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Baby's first miles

Zoe earned her first frequent flier miles on Monday, 500 for a short trip from Stockholm to Denmark. I have (for complicated reasons that are uninteresting to my readers) had to change frequent flyer and signed Zoe up for the same: Scandinavian Airlines' EuroBonus. Since it is difficult for us to get anywhere out of Stockholm without flying with SAS, this was the obvious choice. I have no expectations that she will make gold any time soon but the miles, or 'bonus points' as SAS calls them, will come in handy for upgrading on occasion and for buying tickets when I bring Zoe on work trips. Since she turned two in May she is now almost a full fare and I stare in disbelief at the double numbers when I make reservations for us. But here we go, Zoe is growing up. One plane ride at a time.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

One way plane ticket to Berlin

This is what I had to buy today. Not that anyone is going to Berlin but I have ended up in yet another crazy travel situation with Zoe.

Zoe's dad and I share our electronic calendar and you would think that would help us coordinate at least major travels. Well, one day he came over to my desk and asked if when my calendar said Munich for two days, did that mean I was actually going to Munich? Because, he had just arranged to go to Gothenburg for a writing workshop, which he had arranged with 5 others who could only do those days. Yes, I replied, when my calendar said Munich, I was actually going to Munich. I thought about possibilities for a few moments, including sending Zoe to Gothenburg with her dad and arranging daycare there (it doesn't cost anything to take her on the train but she is a full fare plane ticket these days), but that was vetoed by him. I actually contemplated for one second to ask a friend to pick up Zoe from daycare and stay the night with her but since this friend has never been alone with Zoe, although he adores her and she gets along with him, I didn't think it was an actual possibility. A proper babysitter was out of the question for the sheer price of it, considering it would be 4pm to 8am and then 4pm to 11pm again the next day. The only real option was for me to drop Zoe off in Copenhagen with my mom. Luckily Copenhagen is sort of on the way to Munich from Stockholm where we live so I went ahead asking my travel agent to book tickets. Tiny detail was that I cannot leave before 5pm the day I go to Munich because of a meeting at the university. There was literally only one option for flights, leaving me with one hour in Copenhagen to drop off Zoe before my continuing flight to Munich left.

Today I then called up Scandinavian airlines to find out how I get my 2 year old from the terminal to the arrival without having to go back through security. I simply don't have time for that and if I miss my flight onwards to Munich, I miss my meeting the next day. The airport told me that they have not provided non-passengers with gate passes since 2006 due to security restrictions, and it is therefore not possible for my mom to come into the airside area to pick up Zoe. I then asked for unaccompanied minor assistance, well aware that this will cost me extra. But since Zoe is not 5 years yet, they were not able to find anyone who can follow her out. I honestly thought for another three minutes that there has to be someone I can ask to take her out. A nice grandmother type or another mother with a kid who can understand the situation. It is a 500 feet walk from the point-of-no-return doors, through the luggage hall and out the big doors to the arrival hall. My mom will be waiting right there. But I guess this is one of those things you just don't do.

This is why I found myself booking a ticket to Berlin with a discount airline for my mom. It was only a couple of dollars more than the unaccompanied minor service would have been and she now has a boarding pass so she can come through and pick up Zoe. Considering how easy this was I am a bit amused about their 'no gate pass policy' since 2006. Most things can still be bought by money.