Repatriation. Are you ready?

There’s a new question. The new question is really getting up my nose because I’m pretty sure there’s no answer. And if there is an answer, I probably won’t know it, until it becomes irrelevant.

Years ago, when living in Canada, we had friends visit from Australia. The topic of children and travel made its way into the conversation, and then more pointedly, expat children. A very good friend of mine was telling me about his own experience at a Sydney private boys school, he was talking about the kids whose parents lived overseas.

“They were just a bit weird, they found it hard to fit in”

Another good friend of mine had cousins whose parents were expats. “They came back here to go to school and found it really hard to settle in.” 

I’m learning that “found it hard to settle in” is code for “socially awkward or a little bit different”.

Usually once a year, on our annual trip home, I will meet someone new who will share that they know someone like me. “Someone like me?” I always have to ask to qualify. Do they mean brown hair and freckles with a seemingly constant glass of wine in their hand? No, it’s not that. “They lived overseas as well”. 

And that’s when you know you’ve been lumped in a group. Whatever their friends experience or situation was, has now automatically become yours.

The first little traveler has just turned twelve. We have decisions about her future that need to be made in the next few years. She’s about to start grade seven, and at this point in time she’s a very happy, well adjusted, twelve year old girl. She has a lovely group of friends at school and ended the school year with a report card full of A’s and B’s. Yes, that was bragging heavily disguised as a blog post.

It’s not all smooth sailing though. At twelve she has well and truly mastered the eye roll and on Friday night, she became so overtired and emotional that bed seemed the only option. Anyone who has ridden the ‘Tower of Terror’ ride at Disneyland (that’s the one where the elevator takes a sudden drop), has experienced the emotion of parenting a tween. It’s exciting, it’s excruciating, it can be scary, it can be exhilarating. 

My mind has been working overtime over the past couple of years on what we will do for the little traveler’s senior years of high school. Do we all come home? Do we consider boarding school? Do we just stay where we are and have the children repatriate for University? Part of the reason we bought this beach house was to provide the base, to make the first step of having an Aussie “home”. I have read books, researched schools, spoken to other parents, and talked about it with the little travelers themselves. 

The jury is still out.

What I have realized in my research, is that conversations about what to do with expat kids should probably only be had with expat experts. For they are the only ones that truly understand. For many people our life is a little strange. I’m sure that I have many friends who feel my children are missing out by not living in a “stable” environment. An environment where the kids who lived around the corner and caught the bus with you in grade three, are on the same bus for first day of year twelve. I know what my children are missing because I’ve had it, and I see it when I come back to Australia. Sometimes I’m desperate for that life (usually for the first two weeks that I’m home), but for most of the time I’m perfectly okay with it. We have been blessed with the opportunities we’ve been given and I wouldn’t change a second of it. A quick scroll through our family shots is enough to remind me that this life has been everything G and I hoped for. 

So back to the question.

Are the little travelers going to have “have trouble settling in?” 

I’m quietly confident they’ll be fine. We’ll have the same hiccups we’ve had with any other moves and yes, they will be arriving from one world and entering another, but I reckon they know what they’re in for. Our summer holidays always provide an insight into what’s in store. “Doha? Where’s that?”

Like any parent, it’s my job to make them as comfortable in their own skin as possible. It’s my job to make them feel like they have a great support base behind them. It’s my job to make them adaptable and open to change. This is an achievement for any parent, expat or not. And anyone, can screw it up, wherever they happen to reside.

The world has become a very small place. Email, Facebook, Messaging and Skype mean that children can now talk daily to friends on the other side of the world. They share music, youtube clips and concert snippets to remain connected. Obviously none of this substitutes for hanging out in real time with a friend, but gone are the days of arriving back in the country and having no idea what’s going on. The little travelers addiction to Masterchef and Dance Academy proves that Aussie pop culture can now find its way to lounge rooms all over the world.

So, will the little travelers have trouble settling in? Maybe, possibly, hopefully not – we’ll do it together like we have everything else. Our situation will be unique because it is ours, and we’ll just do the best we can. In the meantime we’ll just stay on the ride, exciting, excruciating, scary and exhilarating. 

I love it.

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