Lessons From Man-Bun Man or Why I’m Not Sentimental This School Year

by farrah on August 28, 2015 · 7 comments

Yesterday a funny thing happened. I had a meeting in Utrecht and had to drag along my boys. Except for the weather (which was dreary and dripping) we were all in good spirits so set off on foot to the train station just down the street. Everyone had their own umbrella, so we took five times longer than it would take a normal person to walk the 500 meters or so- but didn’t get hit by a car or a bike so all in all a successful journey. As we approached the station I noticed a good-looking youngish man with a man-bun getting out of a car which sparked my inner reflection for the day.

Kid backpackNo man-bun yet.

I remember looking at him because I am normally quite cynical when it comes to the man-bun, but this guy pulled it off rather well. He also had a gigantic back pack which harkened me back to the days of yore when I was trying to be a woods hippy in Northern Michigan. But what really struck me about the whole thing was that he went over to his mom as she exited the drivers’ seat and gave her a hug and a kiss. She glanced at my boys- and I tried to catch her eye to say ‘Oh lady. Do you miss this? Because that is also nice.’ but she didn’t look at me, which I chalked up to being an unsentimental Dutch thing. I mean, an American mom would have given me a fist-bump, or at least told me to ‘cherish these moments‘, right?

So we walked by, the young man now thinking I was stalking him as we got on his train. Not true- since by this point I was in full mother-duck mode counting my kids to make sure we all got on, still had our train cards and everyone was keeping their hands to themselves. I forgot about man-bun guy, and started to think more about my boys someday being man-bun (please no, let them wear cones, bald heads or SOMETHING else by then) guys too. Me saying goodbye to them as they set off on their very own adventure of one kind or another. Their backpacks secure and well-stocked. Tickets and passports safely tucked away. A map and a plan. Or not.

kids in apartment rentalChecking out a room in our Hallstatt rental.

And I’m pretty cool with that. I wanted nothing more than to fly the coop the instant I could when I was a teen. If my boys are brave enough to do that- by all means I hope that they do. Stay in hostels. Do the days on end without a proper shower. Wring every single drop out of being young and able to travel and see all that there is to see. It’s much easier to climb mountains or run to a 1 minute connection if you don’t have little kids in tow (I suspect) so do it now before you’re traveling with your own kids. Because yeah, you’ll do that too and you’ll love it.

Salt mine in HallstattOur family on a mountain in Hallstatt. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean I don’t love them and enjoy them and thank the universe for making me their mom. What I am is so damn excited for them to grow up thinking that this world is theirs to see. That they will have the skills and the confidence to navigate from country to country, train to cab, hostel to couch. So while I’m thrilled for them to start that journey, it doesn’t mean they’re ready now. Many families travel full-time and much more than we do- their kids might be totally competent. We are slower and still balancing the expat/traveler thing so it’s a bit different. We aren’t full-time or even half time. We do it in spurts so when we go we have to cover every little thing again and again. Important basics that we should all possess on the road  out there.

Kids and a mapChecking out a map in Como.

When we take the bus I explain how stops work. When we take the train I tell them where to look for the signs that tell them which station is which. We explain how taxis work, why or when you might need one, and why it’s important to be aware of our surroundings. On top of all this it’s always a lesson in communication, greeting, manners and chivalry. Elderly are given our seats. Ladies go first. That sort of thing. I don’t give a rat’s ass if that’s a dying art- my boys will learn it and know it as they know to breathe. Just like their father.

Domaso ItalyMy explorers

So this, on the last Friday of summer holiday- you will not find me sentimental or misty as my children start first grade and kindergarten respectively on Monday. Instead- I’m happy for them, looking forward to another year of learning more about the world and understanding a culture different from ours. We’ve got more adventures ahead and I have another year of time to teach them all I can about how to make their way out there in the traveling world. To me that’s just as important as the A-B-C’s and the 1-2-3’s.

clooneyLinc rocking it in Lake Como.

Of course, teaching them how to look cool while doing it is something that they must be born with.

This is the post I wrote last year. Am I made of stone?!

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Julia August 28, 2015 at 4:01 pm

I’m in a weird place with back to school this year, as much as I want him to learn and grow I wish I could freeze some of this time while he’s little before it fades away. I completely agree about traveling and seeing the world, I wish I had done more of it before I got married and had kids. And I hope that he does it once he’s old enough.


2 farrah August 29, 2015 at 7:28 am

I’m feeling pretty indifferent I think. There are a bunch of reasons- not to mention the fact that we got out just 4 weeks ago.
I also think that I tend to be constantly thinking AHEAD (which trust me, isn’t a good thing) which leaves me less sentimental for what’s behind.


3 Chamisa August 28, 2015 at 9:23 pm

What a great perspective, and one that I often forget, even as a traveling family! I also wasn’t super sad about school starting this year. I guess there are some middle years that might all muddle together and lack an emotional response before these boys really “grow up” and we parents start to panic that our time with them is running out. So, I must live under a rock – I have no idea what a man bun is!! Google, here I come…


4 farrah August 29, 2015 at 7:26 am

ha! Did you google it???!!
Yeah, I think I’m really missing an emotional response here since it’s kinder and first grade. BUT, and this is a big but: L and C are staying in the same class since it’s ages 4, 5 &6. It’s got the same teacher and just ‘divided’ group 1 and group 2. So, they went from group 1 to 2 for kinder. Not very traumatizing for me 🙂

As for B, he is actually going to a ‘big kid’ classroom with big desks and and whole deal. But I think it being called ‘group’ maybe, as well as the fact that he’s in the next classroom over is making this less of a monumental moment. One of the expat downsides? Or upsides?


5 Chamisa August 29, 2015 at 8:37 pm

YES! Ugh, atrocious. That trend just needs to fizzle and die!
Agreed – the more dramatic transitions happen at different times over there. In Germany, it was starting kindergarten, entering first grade (at a real school, after 4yrs of kinder), and fourth grade when you practically decide the course of the rest of your life. It probably also helps that your routine is pretty similar to last year, nothing drastic. 🙂


6 Kristin August 31, 2015 at 10:57 am

So glad you reposted this from last year! This is a wonderful, thoughtful post — and I also want all that for my kids, but I’m a heck of a lot more terrified than you sound.

I was incredibly lucky during my travel adventures, but there were so many close calls, some extremely dangerous, that my imagination runs wild. Even so, I wouldn’t trade it for the world, and I can’t wait for the day we start really traveling. Living in Europe is an amazing opportunity to see so many different cultures and sights without having to fly 6 hours each time.

Also, I don’t mind the whole man-bun thing. I don’t get why people care about it so much. 🙂


7 Amy October 13, 2015 at 4:56 pm

This is such a timely piece, Farrah! I feel exactly the same way as you do. While I do my best to savour every hectic drip of the “young” years which remain – a simpler task once your family enters the Land of Tween Girl – I am excited to see what our kiddos will do as “grown ups”. Beautifully written. Cheers to all that is today and all that lies ahead!


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