This blog post was started in June, 2017 and has sat in my draft folder since then. Taking a moment to reflect on our lives, our current “home”lessness, and the news that we have finally secured a home… I have successfully wrapped up my thoughts.
At least four times this summer holiday it happened again. The confusion that took over my kids’ face was noticeable. And the anxiety of watching them try to muster an appropriate response was excruciating for this parent… because (my husband and) I made this simple question a daunting one. For most kids, the question is a one word answer or a quick multiple choice. But for our kids, an appropriate response requires an essay. The question that causes so much strife in our life:
Where are you from?
As a Third Culture Kid (TCK), our children live in a world of ambiguity. They do not live in the country of their two passports (the respective countries from which my husband and I grew up in) nor do they live in the country they were born in. As a family, we chose to live and learn in different places around the globe.
Together, the kids have come up with a rather canned response, some variation of: “We are from the world” or “We are from everywhere but home is where we live now, (insert country here).”
Though Rob and I both had settled homes we grew up from, our fathers are both immigrants and may understand this same unsettled feeling. My father was born and raised in the Azores Islands of Portugal and moved to California while my father-in-law emigrated from England to Belgium. Home for them can be variable too. They both married, had families, worked, and built homes in their new countries but both men are still connected to their country of birth by family, friends, and daily news reports.
While packing for our summer travels, I was excitedly talking about how excited I was to see friends and family. My daughter asked why I was so “over-the-top-happy”. I told her it was because I was going home. With innocence she responded, “I wonder what I will call ‘home’ when I’m older.”
I. Was. Gutted.
It was this simple comment that struck me to my core. I realize that Rob and I have taken away the security and stability that “home” offers. And sometimes…our kids wonder about it. We didn’t chose to move around the world to be cruel. We made this choice with deep love for our children. But in doing this, we exchanged a sense of “home” for top-tier international education, adventure, experiences in global perspectives, and lifelong learning.
But was it right?
When our family is unsettled in a new country, I constantly wonder “What have we done?” and “Did we make the right decision?” This underlying sense of concern is compounded during tearful sessions at night when the kids miss their friends, are uneasy about school, or are frustrated about our lack of routine.
But as the hours turn in to days turn in to weeks, things begin to regain their shape and color. Shipments arrive and houses begin to look like a home. Strangers begin to have names. And friendships are developed. The unfamiliar become familiar as we find that we can get between locations without much thought or focus.
And the routine of life begins again: Wake up. Breakfast. School. After-school activities. Home. Homework. Dinner. Rest. Repeat. And by the time summer holiday rolls around again, we realize that things make sense again.
There are no more tears.
There is no more angst.
And we are home.
Though our shipment has not yet arrived, we’re starting to make this crazy, quirky, hutong house our home. Here’s our progress from weekend #1.