Pep Talk


A parenting book I once read noted the saying: “You’re only as happy as your unhappiest child.”

I hope that’s not true. My unhappiest child is miserable. Or maybe it’s just that it’s Monday, which I can’t even pronounce in Croatian – “ponedjeljak.” It’s going to be a long ponedjeljak.

One child shares my wanderlust. The other just wants to go home.

One is excited to kick around a soccer ball with strangers. The other would rather play with the landlord’s dog or look for the turtle that lives in the front yard instead of trying to talk to anyone.


“W” went to bed last night already dreading ponedjeljak. He misses his friends, his school, his cousins, his baseball team, his video game chatrooms, his music, familiar food and the comfort of everyone speaking in English.

Sarge and I gave him a pep talk and snuggles, but the boy woke up with a stomachache and held my hand the whole walk to school. There were tears – mostly his. Mine were all on the inside. His teacher saw us sitting outside and tried to tell him it would get easier. “W” doesn’t believe us. He’s probably acting exactly like I did when I didn’t want to go to the all-girl high school my parents sent me to. I ended up loving it. I want “W” to love traveling as much as I do. I hate that he sees it as some kind of punishment.

Traveling the world with kids means dragging them along even when they don’t want to go. I’ve been assigning the boys journal entries in hopes that they’ll savor this experience someday. I peeked in “W’s.” One page is filled with frowny faces and words about how much he hates this place. Sarge told me I shouldn’t have snooped.


I can only hope that dealing with homesickness at age 10 will prepare him for transitions he’ll make throughout life. I can make up a better pitch and tell him that dealing with something different is like dipping your toe in a swimming pool. It’s freezing and uncomfortable at first, but then you dive in and get used to it and actually like being in the water.

My words are lost on him right now.

“No matter what anyone says,” he told me this morning, “I’m not going to like it.”

My unhappiest child and I are a little knocked down today. Maybe it will all be better after ponedjeljak.