I ended after a very long, stressful, irritating, exhausting flight asking the question, “Isthis what vacation is like from now on?”
“This” being not really having a moment alone, a moment to relax, a moment to feel rested, a moment that feels like an actual vacation. You know, like you had pre baby. Well, the short answer is, yes. Yes, this is how vacations will be from now on, which sounds awful. But the long answer isn’t a simple yes or no, and it really isn’t as dreadful sounding.
I totally admit that for the first few days, I spent mourning what it used to be like. To have the freedom for me and Aya to come and go as we pleased. To only have to worry about ourselves and what we wanted to eat or do. To be able to come back to the house at midnight after a marathon all day excursion or visiting four or five different cities. To only have to worry about our own jetlag. And to not have to share our food with anybody. So yeah, I did a ton of internal whining while we dealt with a severely jetlagged baby. But once I started to let go of how things were, and accept how thingsare, I saw there was a whole new set of things we could experience. And all new experiences for Ellie, too.
One of the big adjustments we dealt with was not being able to zip around the train stations with ease. Japan isn’t quite yet equipped for handicap or stroller accessibility. Every time we had to change trains, it was usually us and a group of old people with cans wandering around looking for the one hidden elevator. Sometimes there are escalators, but only in one direction. We became good at knowing where the elevators were at all the stations we frequented, but sometimes it was just easier if I picked up the stroller with Ellie in it and go up and down the stairs.
But the exciting part about dealing with the trains is that Ellie loved them. Every time she saw a train (moving, or parked), she would say “Choo Choo!” When the train would stop and the doors would open, she’d smile and wave “HI!” to the people getting on. And then when it took off again, she’d look at the window and wave: “Choo Choo! BYE BYE!” Nobody knew how to react to this kid. The people on the trains are generally really quiet. Really quiet. People all sit or stand silent and you just hear the sounds of fingers texting on their phones and the train conductor announcing the next station. “Ueno, Ueno desu.” Even when the trains are packed so tight you can’t even move your hand to reach your nose to scratch, it’s awkwardly quiet. But there we were, with the super happy baby who was just so excited to be on the train. No matter how stressed or aggravated I was from carting the stroller and Ellie up and down the stairs, and back and forth across platforms, I couldn’t help but smile every time she said hello or goodbye on the train.
The other thing that was amazing to watch was how Ellie ate. At home, Ellie is hot and cold with food. Sometimes she eats great; sometimes it’s a battle. But here, even though we totally messed up her schedule and have been putting her in situations that pushed her limits and boundaries, she has been eating like a champ. And loving unexpected things, too! Wakame and nori seaweed, miso soup with tofu, and fermented soybeans seem to be her favorite just to name a few. Anything we put in front of her she gobbles up. Rice and seaweed crackers, fish crackers, fish, dried fish, green tea, soba noodles, anything. Who is this kid!? I guess I’ve just been denying her Japanese half too much.
While being here was a huge reality shock to me, I finally let go and realized, hey, I’m in Japan! This totally beats cooking dinner every day or trying to come up with new things to do for Ellie to keep her from getting bored and antsy. Even though this trip still provided some stress and anxiety of its own, we got to see some really cool things, from the big cities like Shibuya and Ueno, to the more scenic views like seeing the sunrise out of the ocean. So what was I whining about before?
Plus, we’ve been eating GREAT. From conveyer belt sushi, to my mother-in-law’s amazing homemade Japanese cooking, to some awesome donuts from Mister Donut, we’ve been eating fantastic here. (Speaking of donuts, I made it my mission to earn 150 points to get a “free” Mister Donut coffee mug, and I’m only nine points away!) I even managed to escape a couple of nights by myself out to Denny’s or to the local grocery store for some quiet time.
So I did manage to find some things to help balance things out a bit. But aside from all the sights and the new foods Ellie got to see and try, the coolest part of it all was that she got to see and spend time with Aya’s parents face to face instead of through Skype on the computer. So yeah, vacation isn’t just about me anymore, and you know what? I think I’m OK with that.