I'm sitting here with my bags nearly packed, already overflowing with detritus from an unexpectedly extended 2 month trip home: presents for the boys, new clothes, toys, old mementos I'm finally taking with me. I've been here so long it's starting to feel like home again and I wonder if I'll have reverse-reverse culture shock upon my return to Kisumu. Whatever that means.
There's a lot I'm going to miss and a lot I'm looking forward to returning to. It's the obvious stuff: my husband, friends, privacy, just being in space that I had a part in making home, a space that's a reflection of my family and my identity.
Bla bla blah. It's the normal stuff. But I can't seem to get my head around what all this transition means for a three year old. He talks excitedly about seeing his papa and his toy motorbike and every once in a while says, "Mama, you remember Esther?" (a Kisumu friend). But he can't not notice the differences in what is available for children in the US versus Kenya.
Partly because this is a vacation and partly because we can't get this kind of stuff in Kisumu, we took full unabashed advantage of the whole North American child-centered culture. We went to parks, children's museums, kiddy pools, places that allowed kids to dress up as princesses and pirates and muck around pirate ships and fake castles,places filled with inflated jumping castles. We went to children's concerts and children's theaters. Every restaurant had a kids menu and he's eaten more grilled cheese in the past 2 months than he has in his entire life. It was a veritable bacchanal of childhood revelry.
|The Jump Zone. Or a rainbow threw up. I'm not sure.|
|Water play at the Children's Museum.|
|This place is called Make a Messterpiece. This is where your art class went when the school budget was cut. They privatized it.|
|And Children's Theater (for those under 10 and those tripping on acid)|
But we're leaving this carnivale of child-centered fun. Kisumu has none of any of this. There are a few rusty metal playgrounds in schools and the odd country club, but transplanted to the US these would be ignored for safer more interesting options or simply condemned. On a recent walk to the park, I considered what leaving all of this must mean for Caleb and wondered if we were being fair to deprive him of this.
I was interrupted from my worry by Caleb who turned to me and asked expectently, "Mom, will there be kids at the park?"
"I'm not sure Caleb. There might be." I replied.
He looked disappointed and started walking a little slower, not quite as excited about the prospect of an afternoon at the park with nobody but his mom to play with. But when we got close enough to see the playground and the lone child climbing up the slide ladder, Caleb literally took of running, shouting over his shoulder, "Look mom! A kid!"
A smile broke out on my face. For his unrestrained and enthusiastic sociability - one of his most endearing characteristics. But also for the well timed reminder.
A reminder that children, especially extroverted kids like Caleb, don't need a ton of fancy and colorful equipment. They need playmates and the outdoors and chances to create their own worlds using only their imaginations. Isn't that what we remember best from our own childhoods?
So, I'm trying not to feel too bad about depriving him of trips to children's concerts and fantasy play lands. We'll sing our own songs and he'll make his fantasies. He'll run around with the neighborhood kids creating his own fun. And maybe he'll even be better off for it. At least that's what I'm telling myself.