Sitting, and thinking

Paris 2016 | In Jennie's Kitchen

London feels like a blur. Were we really ever there? I do not recommend a brief stint of just two and a half days any place new when international travel is involved. It takes at least that much time to get adjusted to time change, which by the way was compounded by things feeling a bit topsy turvy, with left being right, and vice versa. I was never really confident I wouldn’t become a hood ornament while crossing the street. London drivers are very fond of their horns, same as NYC drivers, but I rarely ever use a horn now in the tiny town where I live in upstate New York.

By time I found a groove, and a local shop to pick up my morning latte and croissants, we were shuttling to St. Pancras Station to catch the Eurostar to Paris. Poof. London was in my rearview mirror before I even had a chance to focus my vision on it. We’ll be back, I told the girls.

The train to Paris was comfy, but peppered with a crying kid most of the trip. Incidentally, Isabella reminded me that I, too, have kids, and should be more sympathetic. She also said, “you don’t like kids very much, do you?”. This makes me sound like a rather awful mum, I know, but I’m sensitive to sound, and well, kids make a lot of noise. I also didn’t realize this until having a second child.

Isabella was as a perfect a child as they come. She slept through the night, waking at 5:30am for a feeding, and then going back to sleep until 9:00am, or so. She would also lay in bed, and wait for me or Michael, or the both of us when we were home, to come in and say good morning. Michael had orchestrated this whole routine to Sleepers Awake by Bach. Memories of him holding her high above his head towards the end, singing “good morning, Isabella Rose” flicker in my mind, the embers of a life that feels like it’s slowly fading.

And so I continue to tell these stories, of him, and our time together.

I never understood the parenting magazine, or baby proofing, industry when it was just our Isabella Rose. She was the child who’d warn others to be careful of hot radiators, never once touched an oven knob, and would gladly sit in her crib playing with toys before ever considering throwing a leg over the bars to escape.

Bella & Mikey Last Snowfall | In Jennie's Kitchen

Last snowfall with daddy. Found this photo on an old camera of Mikey’s while preparing for this trip.

This child, our Isabella Rose, well, she’s a teen now. And I love her madly, still, even though it might not always be apparent (to her, or others). She’s never quite forgiven me for having a second child. It was never because she wasn’t enough. Quite the contrary. I loved her so much that I worried I couldn’t possibly share any of my heart with another child. I still love her that fiercely, and her sister has taught me so clearly that it’s not good parenting that makes great people. It’s how they’re hard wired. It’s our job to help guide, and keep them on course.

Bella has the kindest parts of me and Michael. Virginia has the fiercest, fiery ones that kick my ass They’re both solidly good people, just with very different approaches. One is a gentle, loyal lover of life, with some dark struggles deep down. The other has a take no prisoners approach. It’s as though you split me in two parts, my inner workings revealed for me to see, and confront every day.

I’m a bull in a china shop when it comes to parenting. Gentle is not always my strong suit. I push my girls to be strong, outspoken, and I’m less likely to kiss a scrape I can’t see. I try often to remind myself those invisible boo boos are the most important to be tended to; I’m a work in progress, myself, though.

Teenagers are complicated creatures, and since my teen years were vastly different, due to circumstances, not time periods, I don’t quite understand “normal” teenagers, but then again, what is normal, really. Does any such thing exist?

I guess what I really just want to say is that we’re in this together kid. I love you even when you doubt it, and doubt me. I suppose this period is our winter of discontent. You want to be home, surrounded by the comforts of what you know. I want you know there’s a world larger than the one in which you were born. Should you choose to settle into a life in New York, wonderful. You’ll be close to home for the holidays (unless my dreams of retiring to a flat in Paris come true). Just know that right now this trip, and the many more we’ll take before you leave my nest are your passport to dreaming big, always.


  • Theresa

    You are SO right about the hardwiring. If I could reach back and tell my 30 year old “new Mom” self something I would say….”Just hang on and listen more closely and relax when you can. All you can do is help with the steering. The car’s already been built.”

    Merry Christmas, Jennie. You are a good Mom:-)

  • Kara

    Raising kids sure isn’t easy but through your writing, I am always reminded that we need to continue to evolve ourselves to guide our children as best we can. Merry Christmas to you, Jennie, and to your girls as well.

  • Laurie

    She might not appreciate it now Jennie, but she will some day. My Parents took me on a vacation every summer and I did not want to go (especially when I was pre-teen and teen). What surprises me now as an adult is how much of those trips I remembered and enjoyed. So many of the places we went and the things I learned about them creep up all the time in my memories and I am very thankful for them.

  • Liz Schmitt

    You are brave. And, yes, I feel it is such a gift to divide a trip up into “digestible” portions – they get larger/longer as I age. Your girls will be fine – carve out time for YOU this holiday journey. xo

  • Melissa

    What a beautiful way to put it: “It’s as though you split me in two parts, my inner workings revealed for me to see, and confront every day.” This is exactly how my children seem to me: one is deeply sensitive, emotional, and well-behaved; the other is sweet, demanding, and temperamental. On any given day, I myself am like one, the other—or both! And oh, do they kick my ass. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, as always. It’s such a comfort. Have a wonderful, wandering holiday.