A year ago, we were preparing to leave Thailand after four years. We’ve now been settled on the East Coast of the U.S. for ten months. And in two months, we’ll depart for Poland, where we’ll spend three years. That’s two international moves for our family of five in nearly one year.
All of these transitions come easily for my husband and me, since we chose careers that we knew would involve us transiting the globe every few years. But how will it affect our children? The youngest (newly one-year old) is too young to know what’s happening yet and lucky for us, the other two (ages three and five) have been good about going with the flow so far.
But not far from my mind is how their opinions on this transient lifestyle will change over time, especially as they begin to develop good friends and fondness for certain places.
When I look back at our time in Thailand, it evokes a sense of nostalgia for me because it was the place where both of my daughters were born, where my son spent his first four years of life, entered his first school, and made his first friends. My children developed a strong affinity for Thai food, were comfortable living and walking the streets of a big city, and became spoiled by monthly trips to the beach. Every day was a swim day. Travel to cool places such as Bali, Hong Kong, and Australia was easy. The Thai people were welcoming and friendly, and loved interacting with the kids, and as a result, my children developed a strong sense of confidence and ability to easily and comfortably interact with others. Thailand was their first home and I believe, will always be a big part of who they are.
My husband and I talked to the children a lot about our move back to the United States in July 2014. When we packed everything up, said our goodbyes, and headed for a three-day layover in Hawaii, the kids were adjusting to the concept that the U.S. was not just one place, but a place made of 50 states. As we made our way from Hawaii to California, Michigan, and Virginia, our four-year old kept asking us when we were going to get to “America.” Soon after that, we invested in a large, magnetic USA map and had a geography lesson or two at home. The kids were thrilled with the discovery that in “America” there are water fountains in parks and airports (and that you could actually drink the water from them), that a mailman delivers mail to your house every day, that people who live in houses have neighbors, back yards, and can do things like set up lemonade stands or invite friends over for a night of s’mores-making.
And then there was the discovery of seasons, snow, door-to-door trick-or-treating, fall festivals with pumpkins, hay rides, and mazes, spring festivals with strawberry and blueberry picking, summer carnivals, and of course, Disney World. And to top it off, they’ve had a wonderful year of connecting with family. They have developed strong bonds with grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. Sleepovers at the grandparents occur on a regular basis.
And now, ten months into our time in the U.S., when we are just settled, comfortable with our home, our neighborhood, our friends, the schools, the rhythm of the seasons, and happy to be near family, we are getting ready to head overseas for our next adventure in Krakow, Poland. For several months we’ve been prepping the kids for the move – talking up castles, countryside, dragon festivals, skiing, and Polish bakeries. We’ve been listening to the Frozen soundtrack – my daughter’s favorite – in Polish. We’ve been practicing our hellos and thank yous in Polish. We’ve been talking about our new schools, how we’ll get to school, where we’ll live, and where we’ll visit. Although I’m not sure that they fully comprehend the concept of starting over again, they are excited about the move. It is fun to share in their enthusiasm.
Sometimes they ask us what’s after Poland – a question for which we don’t yet have an answer. As I think about the next three years, I know that the kids will be exposed to new experiences that will continue to shape who they are. It’s fun to be in this together, our family of five.
So when does this get hard? When do they start lobbying to stay in one spot and resist leaving friends, schools, and places behind? When do they tire of the transient lifestyle? When will it be hard to garner their enthusiasm for yet another move? And how do we as parents support them, empathize with them, or even determine whether the regular moves are still the best thing for our family?
These questions cross my mind every once in awhile, but until that time comes, we’re going to continue to enjoy the new places, activities, cultures and friends that await us, remembering the people we’ve met and the places we’ve lived along the way are all part and parcel of who we are and how we approach life.
Have you and your family always lived in the same place? How do you deal with transitions?
This is an original post to World Momst Blog by Loren Braunohler, currently in the United States and preparing for a move to Poland. Photo credit to the author.