One of the things I adore about my boys is how they embrace everything with enthusiasm. Within minutes of arriving at the apartment – and despite having traveled for fifteen hours – Boy2, aka “The Fox,” asked if he could walk around the corner and buy macarons. By himself. In French.
This is what he changed into for the outing:
Bug and I are free-range parents so we tossed him a few bills, told him how to say “Framboise,” and sent him on his way. He returned victorious and very proud that he navigated the streets of Paris himself. And if you can’t tell, he’s in love with the red beret.
Having the boys with us has been good for Bug and me. We had both become so worn down by his illness and accident that sometimes I believed we’d never climb out of that miserable pit. But the past month and a half have been good. Bug has made huge improvements with his PTSD and most days he seems like his pre-accident self. The boys have even commented that “Daddy’s brain seems better” because he’s smiling again and doing things with us. They love seeing us hold hands, and they giggle when Bug kisses me. In many ways, everything feels just like it should.
We spent yesterday touring the area around Notre Dame and the Luxembourg Gardens. Maybe because they have parents who love history, politics, and art, but the boys – even our 5-year old, The Colonel – stayed engaged for five hours while I rattled on about Rousseau, flying buttresses, and arches.
As a reward for putting up with all that, we let them loose in the Luxembourg Gardens. The playground charges an admittance fee, but it is a gem. Zip lines, climbing structures, tubes – basically everything that makes a kid happy. Oh, and then there are the pedal carts. For a euro, kids pick a cart, pedal it up a hill, and then fly down a slalom course. After all that work, the boys were in need of crepes, so Bug and I took them to our favorite place – Creperie des Arts on Rue St. Andres des Arts.
Today, while I saw my therapist, Bug took the boys over to the Eiffel Tower. The Colonel is a bit obsessed with the monument and he later told me, “It was beautiful. I loved it.”
Not everything has been rosy. Like me, our boys have lived through nearly two years of Bug’s erratic behavior stemming from the accident, and unfortunately, they know about the affair. Bug and I have had to have some frank talks with them. For example, they wanted to know why I also have a therapist and if my “brain is broken like Daddy’s.” Our oldest, Pudge, wanted to know how much of Bug’s affair was PTSD and how much of it was him being a jerk (For the record, both of our therapists, our marriage therapist, and myself believe his affair is a result of his accident. However, the PTSD became worse during the affair partly because his mistress convinced him he didn’t need therapy – even after his breakdown in January). We’ve had to explain that Bug is on leave from work because his brain melted down and I was terrified he was about to commit suicide or suffer a breakdown he’d never recover from. We’ve had to answer these questions in a way that doesn’t frighten the boys, but still leaves them feeling they have an answer. It isn’t easy.
But even with all of that, having my family together after seven weeks apart is wonderful. Watching Bug interact with the boys, seeing the love between them, and knowing things are getting better every day, makes me tear up.
Our family has been through hell, but as long as we’re together, I know we can get through anything.
*John Green’s LOOKING FOR ALASKA is one of Bug’s and my favorite books. We poached our kids’ nicknames from it.