Last week was the first time Poppy has said she has no desire to move back to the UK. I think she really meant it. This should make me feel ecstatic that she is so settled but it hasn’t. In fact, if I’m honest with you, it’s broken my heart a little; I’m still hanging on to that trip home, as ridiculous and ungrateful as that sounds. It’s ridiculous because I am so happy here, I am utterly besotted with Melbourne. However, I’m still really emotional about who we left behind, and I’m definitely not ready to utter the words “I’m here for good!”
I guess in Poppy’s little life, her 8 years on this planet, two years is a fair chunk! Going from a 6-year-old with no front teeth to an all-out Aussie 8-year-old can only mean one thing; if and when we decide to pack up and move on, she’s not going to be too chuffed. Gosh, neither of the children will be. The time when she couldn’t imagine being sad to leave here has gone, and now, heading into our third year away, she barely remembers anything about our old life, and I’m finding that a little too much to bear! I insist on asking her questions about our old house, or the route we used to bike to the park. I ask her if she remembers the walks we used to go on, the pizza place we all loved. She has no idea, yet she looks deep into my eyes and tells me a completely fictitious story about all of those things.
She’s doing it for me isn’t she? She knows I miss home, she knows I want her to have strong memories of what we did, where we went and who we shared our time with. She has barely any memory of the UK, and yet she stands here in front of me trying her best to make me believe she does. It truly shows me how compassionate she is, how aware she is of others emotions and how she will always endeavour to make the best out of a situation. This is what being an expat has taught her. To be resilient, to be aware of other people, to look after ‘us’ because essentially we’re all we have.
We really are living the dream; we’re that family who waved goodbye to their loved ones and travelled to Australia with hopes and dreams that quickly became a blissful reality. Australia has given us so much more than we could ever have imagined. Our adventures, our lifestyle, the children’s opportunities, and their dodgy accents. As time goes on, I am fast approaching the real possibility that we may never be able to move back home without a serious fight on our hands. Our children are getting older, making real friendships, getting fully ensconced in the education system, joining sports teams, Poppy’s falling for the cute boy in her class (I know…). But it’s real. It’s life, and the longer we’re here the more we need to prepare ourselves for the reality of either tearing our settled kids away from this blissful existence or putting up with the longing to be nearer our friends and family. What is the job of a parent if not to give your children the best life possible? And for us, at this moment, this is where they are happy!
Will I ever stop grieving for the life I left behind? Am I really wanting to go back, or am I just doing what every expat does, remembering and highlighting the best bits, and completely ignoring the reasons why we left in the first place? Will I ever stop living this “what if we leave” life? Not buying a lawn mower because we may not be here for long. Trying to make friends whilst trying my best to ignore the heartache that comes with leaving them behind. Building a beautiful childhood for our children whilst knowing that it may just become a distant memory as we move them on again. Can I settle? Can I relax? Can I fully unpack? Do I just go with the flow and hope that this chapter ends in beautiful friendships, wonderful memories, and endless letters in the post box? Or should I be preparing myself for yet more years of homesickness for us all? Only, this time we’ll be yearning for our Australian home? As the children get older and the visa in Australia starts to run down I’m preparing myself to teach them the heartache of leaving our home again. If I can’t learn that, how can I possibly help them?
We chose to give them this life, we chose to teach them about the world, we chose to take them to as many places as we can whilst they are young. The thing that I hadn’t banked on as we have been falling in love with so many destinations is the heartache they feel when we leave. Holiday blues are a real thing, but imagine if you were leaving a whole life behind every time you stepped onto a plane.
I’m not sure I had banked on the “living like I’m going home” way I am approaching our lives. Living in limbo, just in case the time comes to move on. All I can hope is that the children remain as happy as they are. I hope they continue to make a wonderful life for themselves, embrace everything we have been given; and then, if and when the time comes to wave goodbye, I pray that we will have given them all the skills they need to be able to happily pack these memories firmly in their mind as we head off on yet another adventure!
“Do not tell them how to do it. Show them how to do it and do not say a word. If you tell them, they will watch your lips move. If you show them, they will want to do it themselves”