We Are Screwing Up Our Kids With This Incredible Life
“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act.
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
Life is a great balancing act; maintaining balance between work and play, risk and reward, sanity and insanity requires constant choices, both big and small. For the Wandering family, the choices never end…and they are huge, life altering choices. For me, I struggle every day with whether I am giving my family the most awesome life ever or ruining their childhood by dragging them around the world. I usually fall on the side of “most awesome ever”, but it is not abnormal to find me bemoaning what bad parents and family members we are because we live here on the other side of the world. I am sure that each of you struggle with equally big challenges in various areas of your lives…this post is about my own.
Let’s start with an example: We got to stay at a 4 star resort last weekend for 3 nights…we were able to jump from our room into the lazy river that led to the giant slide where our kids played next to a picture perfect Thai beach; we paid with points. This is not an unusual occurrence in our family.
On the flip side, our kids get to see their grandparents once a year, they don’t ever get to play with their cousins, and my husband is gone so much he accumulates the points we used on that weekend get-away. The kids enter a new school every 3 years, and they are scared to move back to the USA because they’re not sure if they will understand when the teachers speak “American”.
Not so awesome now, right?
OK, that last part about speaking “American” is funny.
Is that good or bad? Does it even out? This lifestyle is a choice we make. Are we making the right one? I struggle with this question every day. For every family there are struggles, weighing big choices about what is best for the family. These work-life balance questions plague not only someone who is a traditional breadwinner, but also work-at-home and stay-at-home parents, not to mention single people who balance their personal lives and work. To struggle with balance is not unique to us, but being a military family who loves travel and truly loves living overseas makes our struggle a bit different.
The biggest uncertainty that I weigh is time with extended family versus living overseas. We know exposing the children to the world is a priceless opportunity. Having friends who speak different languages, have different skin colors, and hail from different countries shrinks the world for our children. This small-world paradigm expands their horizons and their possibilities. Our twins have been to more countries by age 4 than most people will in their lifetime. (Six!) But how do the benefits of travel balance with lost grandparent and cousin time?
As a family who is lucky enough to have 4 living grandparents and many aunts and uncles who we consider very close, it crushes us to watch our kids hug Grandma and Grandpa each time they board a plane to make the trip home. Sure, they usually get a week or two every year, which I know seems great to many whose parents have passed away, but our parents are alive, and they also have feelings. How does it feel for them? (answer: it stinks) Our kids love their time with our parents, but for the first few years of their lives they actually would respond, “In the computer”, when asked where Grandma and Grandpa live. That’s enough to make a parent cry.
So maybe that’s it; maybe we should just settle down half way between our parents house (Knoxville is nice!) and give them the time they deserve. Steve grew up in the same school with the same friends his whole life. It seemed to work for him, and we do love the fact that he can always “go home” to Bellville. On the other hand, as a military brat I was never anywhere for more than a few years and I still struggle with the dreaded question, “Where are you from?”. Maybe there is a balance. Can we put down roots and still keep wandering? How do we find the balance?
Later today our oldest has a playdate with some friends, including an Australian, 2 Americans, and an Ambassador’s son from another country at a climbing gym/trampoline park. I enjoy talking to him as a career diplomat who has traveled the world. I see him and his wife along with other diplomats at receptions, but it’s good to be reminded that we all (even the Ambassadors) live normal lives outside of the jobs here. Our children don’t understand the surreal environment in which they live. They just want to bounce on the trampolines and climb around…have fun without hurting themselves. It takes balance. Maybe that’s the best advice…ignore all the noise, focus on having fun and not hurting ourselves. Just keep our balance. At that, I think we can succeed: 98 and 3 quarters percent guaranteed!