“When Sakura fall from the branch, the shockwaves can shatter entire cities.” Will Ferguson
Just a bit over a week immersed in Japan with my two terrifically entertaining teenage chaperones, and I don’t know how or where to start the story of our adventures.
Japan is beautiful. Japan, in the spring, with Sakura petals falling like snow onto pristine lakes and beautiful brooks that babble in Japonic tonality, can break your Western heart to bits and stitch it back together with threads of cheerful nihilism, gentle bows and magical manners.
Highlights? All of it. Lowlights? Having a card skimmed at an ATM and spending three days in discussions with Visa and my bank. All sorted now though.
This adventure started with a full and surreal flight from Auckland, bursting at the seams with toddlers, tiny tots and families being pushed to the brink and falling into the bitching and biting that we all exchange when stress levels and altitude is high, and space is limited.
We stepped off the plane to collect our luggage and catch a Shinkansen (bullet train) to Osaka.
Every stop along our way has been like stepping into a different chapter of a choose your own adventure novel, written in a familiar but foreign language. Basically, I have spent a blissful and beautiful week bowing, saying thank you in Japanese, and generally not knowing what the fuck is going on. It’s been brilliant.
Daniel’s friend Ben has been an absolute gem. He researched for months and has maneuvered us safely from one end of Honshu to the other. We’ve braved an observation conveyor (I hate heights) in Osaka on a grey evening with something between thick fog and light rain misting over our mystified mugs. We’ve eaten fugu (four days ago, we are all still alive) and A5 graded beef at a tiny family run teppanyaki restaurant in Kyoto that made all three of us cry it was so delicious. We’ve laughed until our ribs and faces burned from the effort and we’ve all battled through the inevitable pangs of homesickness and general travel related stress. I am going to miss our little posse when it comes time to head home and disband. We have a groove and a pecking order, and Daniel and I are not the alphas, his funny and fabulous friend Ben and his google app are (because both mine and Daniel’s google keeps shitting itself when we try to find anything).
Now, it is probably worth mentioning that both Daniel and Ben are introverted by nature. This means they need alone and quiet time to recharge. Traveling with the schedule we have does not allow for a lot of down time. Ben, being the old soul that he is politely asked for some down time chilling in the room, and while he did that my son and I bonded. I am talking tears and cuddles kinda bonded.
I suspect every parent questions their worth in the most important role that we all do our best to fulfil. I know that I am inconsistent and extra, and the way that I am has helped shape my kids into resilient, kind, honest and incredibly funny people. We use humour to defuse most situations. It is a coping mechanism that has served us as individuals and a family unit.
Walking around Roppongi with my brilliant and anxious son, I stopped at the top of the escalator, grabbed his hand, looked into his dark brown eyes and I apologised to him for being the hot mess that I am.
“I see how grown up you are, and how you see the world, and I know that I could have and should have been more consistent Daniel. I feel like a stone-cold fucking failure and I wish you had a better mother sometimes, I really do.”
And then the lip quivers and tears started on both of our faces, and Daniel hugged me with the earnest he’s hugged me since he was a sweet little refluxy baby so many years ago.
“I don’t want any other mother, you don’t seem to understand how lucky I feel. I talk to my friends about normal family stuff for us and they all seriously think I am so lucky. You’re not perfect, but you’re perfect for me.”
Queue the unfettered ugly cry.
“I run around trying to save the world, because it feels like you do better without me.” I confided. “I don’t feel like I deserve you. Any of you. You’re all amazing and I don’t want you to feel the way about me I do about your grandmother. So I run away.” I sniffled.
“You don’t have to run away. We might seem ungrateful, but you’re kinder than anyone I know mamma. I just wish you were kinder to yourself.”
And I snorted and snotted for a moment anf promised I would be home more. That’s a promise I need to endeavor to keep.
Then we went to Cinnabon and got Ben and ourselves some diabetic coma inducing deliciousness.
We arrived back at the room feeling better after our Gilmore Girls moment and explained to Ben that every family has their stuff, and feeling all the feels and having big heavy talks and cries is how we roll.
And we all went out to grab a bite, and had Ramen in one of the top 10 little places in Tokyo. Thank you Ben, and thank you Google.
There’s so much more to cover, but the point of this trip was to celebrate my strong, silent, eldest child’s life so far. We’ve had an amazing time, and I will share more of our stories later, but today, if you are like me, and parenting makes you feel overwhelmed and unprepared, I suspect you’re Loved just exactly as you are, and your kids are grateful for the magic and mayhem that you surround them with.
Thanks for reading.