Three Months In: A New Life

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Atwater Marche Clock

There’s been an overall sense of frustration lately. So little gets done with two children to look after. Inevitably one (or both) of them will be out of sorts any time you try and do anything with them alongside. Making a phone call is an exercise in futility. I may just leave my phone to divert to voicemail permanently once the baby becomes a phone-hating toddler. Difficult phone calls is one reason why the apartment still has a 50% ratio of working appliances. The other being how long it takes to deal with various companies. Especially if they keep leaving you messages in French that you struggle to understand. But after much battling we have at least got air conditioning. As the temperature starts to soar again that’s a massive victory in making ourselves feel comfortable. We’re slowly filling the apartment with other items we need to live here. There have been many trips to Ikea. On public transport. It NEVER ends well. The four-year-old has declared a ban on all suggestions that we might ever return there again. I don’t blame him after the ‘going back to exchange the wrong size bed slats’ fiasco. A buggy, a child, a baby, a bus ride x3, and an unplanned metro ride x 1 with two sets of bed slats hanging out of the basket of the buggy. Epic disaster. On various counts.

I spend my days going around making meals, cleaning up, trying to get the baby to nap and sneaking in an occasional bit of other housework or furniture assembly. I’m constantly noting things that I should do the next day… and then never find the time to do them. Things get started, then abandoned. Leaving the extra clutter of unfinished things lying about mocking me as I pass by laden down with the baby who has probably just covered both of us in something wet and sticky. I decide to go and do something f un with the kids because I don’t want their days to be all about ‘getting things done’, then spend an hour getting them out the door between the synchronised bowel movements and general tantrums about having to put shoes on. Then after all that I’m told that it wasn’t very interesting by the kid who was jumping up and down in excitement at whatever we saw on our excursion. He wants to stay in… until the baby is napping… then he’s bored and wants to go do something. Even the excitement of an entire street under construction outside our apartment is not sufficient entertainment for him when his brother sleeps.

Still, the furniture is slowly assembling. We’ve found and joined the local library and chess club. The kid is reluctantly absorbing chess-related French words despite his insistence that he’s not learning French because English is the ‘right’ language to know. I’ve learnt to modify any games I play with him so that there are no winners or it’s guaranteed to end in tears. I’ve attended my first yoga class in about a year and am determined to keep carving out a whole actual hour a week with no child in my vicinity. Even if it means too much Om-ing and not enough exercising. Our mental map of Montreal is growing in spurts now. We accidentally stumble across things we wanted to see, but are terrible at finding if we’re actually looking for them. Accidental tourism – the easy option. There’s so much to see and do in these summer months that it’s not hard to find something we haven’t explored in detail before.

Some weeks it’s just us and occasional half-conversations with strangers on the way to pick up groceries. A whole afternoon can be spent searching the wardrobes and boxes (yes, there are still many of those) for a particular item I’m almost positive is buried somewhere. I’ll find the sheepskin and random items in a box that the moving guys helpfully marked as ‘computer parts’. The baby quickly learns to love sleeping without sweat on his new furry friend. After a flurry of activity motivation wanes as the humidity rises. For every productive day there’s at least one other where the day has slipped through my fingers with nothing but crumbs and discarded toys on the floors to show for it.

The thought of venturing out in new social circles is tiring. But we do periodically when the heat isn’t too draining. It’s an investment in our future days here. Days when there won’t be any more furniture to build, or household items to purchase. When it will be possible to wash clothes and dishes without any fuss in appliances that just work. The kitchen cupboards will be fully stocked and I’ll know where to find all the weekly groceries we want. On those days as the intense heat of the summer fades and we look towards bleak winter weather we’ll be grateful for any and all bridges we’ve built.

We look at the pile of things we’ve yet to sort out and it feels like we’ve been getting nowhere for ages. The calendar disputes this. Is it really only three months since we first set foot in Canada? It seems far longer because so much has happened since then, compressed into thirteen weeks of intensive learning in a world where things are not quite the same as we’re used to. We’ve only been in our ‘new’ apartment a little over a month. It’s easy to slip into an introspective bubble and get lost within it. The list of things to do does feel endless, yet the list of things we’ve done is actually quite impressive for the time that has passed according to the clock. We’ve a bit further to push on and then we can slow down a little more and just live. There’s lots of life to be lived here.

Occasionally I find my two boys in their play area coexisting without a ruckus for just a few minutes and I can just about see a possibility down the line of them playing together without so much supervision required. Teething and the impending first steps for my almost-toddler has stolen a lot of sleep recently so we improvise when needed. Most days now I quickly abandon hopes of a daytime nap in the cot when he squirms and fusses. Instead we walk and walk, me awkwardly pushing the buggy with its one flat wheel, while the kid complains non-stop about being tired until the baby finally sleeps. I unpack a snack to placate the kid and sit in the welcome shade of the trees while he careens about scaring wildlife with his imaginary games. Pigeons and squirrels beware! Sunlight filters through the leaves. The sound of construction goes on in the distance. A pleasant breeze gently blows cares away for a spell. A few moments to sit quietly and think that life is actually quite good when you look beyond the busyness and the tedious four-year-old antics and meltdowns. Busy, but good. Then, mostly likely, the kid will announce that he urgently needs to poo and we’re off again.

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