"Mummy, I think I need to spend more time at school," announced Littleboy 1 plaintively after getting off the schoolbus on his first day back. After three weeks, he was upset that he had forgotten several things about the school routine - for example, the need to put his chair up on the table when school finishes, putting his homework book in his folder and other stuff that I suppose he normally does on auto-pilot.
I felt exactly the same, I told him. Isn't it strange how, after a break, everyday things suddenly don't come automatically? Driving the car (I didn't drive in England this time as mean old rental car companies now charge per driver, but got used to other people driving on the left after the first week, when it seemed really scary); how my cooker works; the computer system I have to access for work.The first time you do these things again, your brain doesn't quite recall the process. Of course, after the first day, it all comes flooding back, but it's amazing how many things we do are just ingrained.
I've also found it very hard to shrug off the jet lag this time. I wake up early, then am ready to sleep by 9pm, and spend most of the day feeling sluggish and in dire need of caffeine. It hasn't helped that Littleboy 1 suddenly seems to have developed a fear of the dark, and keeps coming into our bed in the early hours because he's 'scared'. (This follows his over the top reaction to the CBBC show Horrible Histories, which terrified him so much in England that he wouldn't go to bed on his own for two nights. Friends tell me it's a good programme, and I'm still not sure what exactly scared him so much, but it seems to have been the catalyst. Littleboy 2, meanwhile, watched the same thing and was completely unaffected - he'll probably be a horror film enthusiast when he grows up).
It's good, though, to go away for three weeks. It makes you appreciate where you live afresh, and take comfort in your daily routine, even if you were getting bored of it before. I remember coming back to London after a four month backpacking trip in 2004, and just being delighted that I could walk around without having to fear someone might be trying to con me or nick my wallet (we had had a few experiences in South America). It's absolutely beautiful here at the moment, all the trees suddenly in leaf and the grass suddenly bright green and lush. Azaleas and cherry blossom are flowering, and joggers seem to have emerged from their winter hibernation to pound the streets. And it's a relief to be back in our own house, despite the kindness of family and friends in putting us up, because staying with other people when you have kids is always more tiring than being at home. Both boys seem so pleased to be back at school, seeing their friends and teachers again (whereas before we left, they were ecstatic at the thought of no school for three weeks). It's a cliche I know, but a change really is as good as a rest.