Far From Home

19 Nov

By Kalley: I grew up on a cattle ranch near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I couldn’t wait to leave my small home town after graduating from high school and attended university outside of Los Angeles. That transition was perhaps the biggest change I have experienced to date, and I loved every minute of it. After university I served in the US Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine, meeting my husband in Kyrgyzstan where he was also a volunteer. We both lived in New Mexico on the Navajo nation, and then moved to China. We are currently living in Zurich, Switzerland. While neither of us is fluent in a language other than English, we have both studied a number of languages and hope our daughters will surpass our abilities.

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I have a strong sense of home and it pervades my personality. My father recently moved out of the home he had lived in since he was 2. My mother had lived there her entire married life. My older sister has moved into that same home with her three young children and they will likely live there for the next 20 years. My childhood home was a 45 minute drive from any gas station, grocery store or friend’s house so my sisters and I learned well to find entertainment at home and would stay there for days on end. Thankfully, this home is a beautiful Colorado ranch with all the fresh air and open space a kid could want, but our dedication to this one place has built in me a strong desire for place based traditions and experiences – perhaps to a fault.

My husband and I have chosen to raise our family overseas – moving from place to place as wanted and needed – as international teachers, and this decision invades my thoughts on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

At least once I month I am angry. I am angry because I can’t find a suitable place for my perception of a birthday party. I am angry because our small apartment has a cramped concrete balcony where my 3-year old rides her new bike around in circles. I am angry because my daughters will not experience Friday night high school football games – growing from the young kids who play tag in the dark to the preteens who practice flirting to the teenagers who actually watch the game and cheer for their classmates.

About once every other month I feel guilty. The guilt comes from not being able to support my mom as she goes through a medical crisis (and from hoping that my older sister is strong enough to help our mom on her own). It comes from not seeing my niece grow from an 8-month old who can barely sit up to a walking, talking toddler, and from not meeting my nephew until he is 10 months old.

More often than angry or guilty, I feel sad. I am sad because my dad doesn’t have the chance to wiggle my infant’s kneecaps and fold her ears while marveling at the flexibility of little ones. I am sad because my daughter doesn’t always recognize pictures of her aunts. And I am sad because it feels more appropriate than angry or guilty.

And more frequently than any other negative emotion I am scared. I am scared that without the consistency of place I experienced growing up that my daughters will feel lost, and that, more realistically, they will wander the globe leaving me far from my grandchildren when that day comes.

Fortunately, for as many times as I have negative reactions to being far from home, I also have positive thoughts about the experiences we have. My daughters will know the absolute deliciousness of bitter lemon soda. My oldest calls churches “temples”, and knows to be quiet and respectful inside both. She can count to 10 in three languages. We make the most out of every new friendship and every old visitor. And our home is our family unit, able to feel joy whenever and wherever we are together.

Do others have fears similar to mine? Do you also find they are balanced with positive experiences? Where and what do you seek on the days when the scales tip toward negative?

3 Responses to “Far From Home”

  1. Tasha December 8, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    Absolutely! I’m terrified on a daily basis, but not for the same reasons. I’m close to my family, and for that I am grateful. I work part-time while my husband works full-time. I worry on a daily basis that our daughter is missing out on important family time because her parents are too worried about paying the mortgage. I’m angry on a daily basis because my daughter spends a good deal of time in daycare, and I HATE it! I want to raise my daughter! But I find balance by reminding myself that it’s quality of time, not quantity of time. And because we work so hard, my daughter has a roof over her head and food on the table.

    • kfhoke December 9, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

      It’s good to be reminded that nobody’s situation is perfect. I am so fortunate to be able to stay home with my girls (and it is one of the reason’s we are overseas- we could NEVER afford it on a teacher’s salary in the US). I believe the stress of trying to create the perfect situation for our kids can have much more of a negative impact on them than if we a simply happy with what we have. But how hard it is to relax and be happy with what is there!

  2. Liv Gifford December 14, 2011 at 5:49 am #

    Absolutely. Thanks for your insightful post. I feel angry and scared that we might be stuck in a small town in the U.S. forever and that my kids will not know what means to be a global citizen! And I feel mad that so much of our lives is devoted to practical realities like bill-paying and house keeping. And I’m sad that my kids are not being raised on a farm as I was, with vast fields, streams, a quiet woods, a pond to swim in and animals to play with. My sister lives in China at the moment and I feel like we’re missing out on our kids’ growth process. I guess we can’t have have everything at once.

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