A fish out of Water

The little travelers are having a fantastic holiday, but every now and then I catch a glimpse of uncomfortableness while they navigate their new surroundings. They are travelers living in a non traveling world. I’ve enrolled them in weekly activities with children who are in the midst of their routine, children who have arrived from school or home. The little travelers are rotating the same two pair of tracksuit pants, jeans and long sleeved shirts while sharing a room full of bunk beds in a familiar but not everyday address.

It’s important to them to fit in, to be the “same”. When you’re eight you may love your individuality, but the last thing you want to be is the weird kid who didn’t get the joke. “What’s a bickie?” someone will whisper in my ear. “Just shorten every word and you’ll be fine – biscuit, bikkie”.

“That explains breaky” giggles the third traveler.

If I was to describe the organizational habits of the third little traveler it would probably be easier to just mention that I find it necessary to check he’s remembered to wear his underwear before the leaving the house. He’s a very relaxed child. T-shirt on back the front?

“Doesn’t matter – I like it better this way”.

Huge hole in the bum of your jeans?

“No-one will care Mum”.

During the school year I think he managed one, perhaps two weeks of handing in his homework on time. This of course was homework that he had completed, but then somehow misplaced from the dinner table to his backpack. I found it under his pillow, I found it in the garage, I found it dripping wet next to the bathtub. “Thanks Mum! I was looking for that”.

From the moment we arrived at our first set of swimming lessons our newness stood out. We had to ask where the change rooms were, we weren’t sure which end of the pool to head to. Was it lane six to the right? Or lane six to the left? The little travelers eyed off the children who arrived in bathrobes over the top of their bathers, I could almost feel them telepathically questioning their lack of robe wear. Surely I would have realized that the bathrobe could have provided the camouflage to make them blend, they could have been just like everyone else. I watched them all wander towards their respective lanes for their first lesson and remembered the awkwardness of not knowing anyone, not understanding how it all worked, wanting somehow to return and begin at week three.

It wasn’t until the third little traveler was standing by the pool that I realized he was wearing his bathers back to front. My heart melted at the predictable cuteness, but I prayed that no-one would notice. I then realized that he wasn’t actually wearing his bathers, he had his younger brother’s bathers on. I was now the mother with the small child in the long shorts and the tall child in the short shorts. Due to our mismanagement of beach towels (they are all in the Qatar house) I was also the mother of the children carrying mismatched bath towels. So uncool. I know this because I was told.

Today I swore I’d have them more organized. I followed the third traveler out of the change rooms and gave him a good looking over before he went off to his lesson, bathers were on the right way and tied at the front, goggles were in hand. We’d made it. I watched him wander off to his lane and then noticed the fourth traveler by the side of the pool – his pants were on inside out and his goggles were upside down.

I looked over at G and giggled at our aquatically challenged family. How hard is it to put a pair of bathers on? It was at this point that I discovered the third traveler, not only didn’t he have a beach towel, he didn’t even have a bath towel. He’d brought along a bath mat.

Next week we’re getting changed at home.

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