Monday, August 22, 2011

I'm sure I'm failing my children somehow, but I don't *think* this is how...

We (okay, Steve) found housing for us back in Williamsburg today.  I'm not sure every family would define it as housing, but we're not every family.  We have low standards on where we live, so long as it aligns with our current goals.

Steve found us a hotel suite.  Our list of what we needed was disturbingly brief:  A stove-top in the kitchenette, so we could cook dinners.  A divided bedroom, so we didn't have to turn out all the lights when the kids went to bed.  And it had to be a first-floor, if it was in a multiple-family housing, like an apartment or hotel.  Andrew must be able to jump.  We made a pinky-swear with him.

That's it.

When I brought Jack home as a newborn, it was to a lovely suburban home with a huge fenced yard, two-stories, and a basement that we envisioned finishing off so they could sleep down there as teenagers.

When Jack was 18 months old, we decided we were just pretending to be conventional and sold our home and moved 4 hours away so Steve could do his post-grad teaching certification.  Andrew was born in a townhome unit in Springfield, a place we lived only a year.

Three children in 4 years, and all of them were born into a different city. You'd think we were running from the law.

And now?  3 children later, we're living in a hotel suite for 3 months while we fulfill what this section of life needs.

I could not be prouder of who Steve is right now...what he's teaching our children.  That you have to listen to who you're supposed to be...what you really want...and go for it, even if the variables don't quite make sense to others.  His joy-filled multiple calls a day keep confirming for me - this is exactly the right choice right now.

I don't think we made a mistake in buying that home in Chicago, and NONE of the decisions made since then have been mistakes either.  The changes and shifts we've made have always been about listening to the present moment, and honoring what that meant in our family. 

As background to my next thought, right now I am sitting in the basement of the home where I lived my entire childhood.  My family has lived here 34 years, and my dad plans to live here until he dies.

My grandparents' home in Kansas, where I visited a few weeks ago?  My 64 year old father was raised there, and my grandparents will never leave.

I can visit the place of my childhood memories, and so can my dad.  I'm breaking this legacy of stability and security that was given down to me.

I do wonder about that.  A primary reason Steve is finishing off his graduate degree as a CPA is to set us up to move and travel all over the world.  His entire job search is based around doing foreign tours.  Probably moving from city to city every couple years.

My children will not have a childhood home to visit, and I wonder what that will mean to them.

The positives of this are flashing neon in my mind.  The experiences!  Oh my goodness.  Immersion into other cultures, other types of living and language and food and people...nothing compares to that, in my mind.  They will have an awareness that life can be lived in SO MANY ways, not just the standard we see when we stay in our bubble.

The negatives might not be completely obvious until we move along further in it.  There are some that come up even now, though.  Right now, my sweet Andrew wants a puppy.  We tell him that for as much as we travel, and how many weeks out of the year we're on the road, it wouldn't be fair to a puppy.   Also: There are things like backyard play-sets that don't make sense with our current lifestyle, and we did appreciate those things before.

When I think about my childhood, what's paramount to me isn't the fact that we never moved.  I'm appreciative of the stability that came from within the family.  That I was nurtured and cared about and I was given chances to do things I wanted to do.

When it came time for college, my parents drew a circle of a 500-mile radius from home as a "suggestion." I chose a college 650 miles away.  I think that childhood stability gave me an incredible sense of independence, even now.  I can go anywhere in the world, and nothing can break my family bond.  I know that on a soul level.

My kids?  Their equation will be different.  We talk extensively, Steve and I, about how to bring stability to them.  Making sure we never miss a family reunion.  Frequent visits with grandparents.  Archiving their mementos and photos and giving them a tangible history.

Will it make it okay in the end?

I look at Jack, our oldest child...the one we've parented the longest...and marvel at his resiliency.  His independence.  How confident he is, and how open to new experiences he is.  Is that just hard-wired into him?  Is it because he's been driven all over the country, from the time he was (literally) 2 weeks old? I have no idea.

Tomorrow, I drop him off for his second week of sleep-away camp in northern Minnesota.  First week was Russian immersion...this time it's immersion French.  This isn't the workings of parents pushing their child into a learning experience, it's a 5-and-then-6-year-old boy, begging to be taught "all the languages of the world." Primarily, languages his parents do NOT speak.

Whether we parented our children into a need for novelty and experiences, or whether we were just given the right children for the chaotic family experiment we can't help but give them...well, I don't know.

I have decided, however, that living our family in a way other than what we're doing would be artificial and not our authentic selves.

Could I have spent the rest of my life in Virginia Beach? Absolutely.  We still might.  But the second (actually, the nano-second) that Steve decided he wanted to live all over the world, my mental bags were packed and ready to go.

Bring it on.

I keep telling myself that the best parenting is authentic parenting, and I keep hoping that I'm right.

What I do know right now:  Not ONE of my children, in 2 months and 8000 miles of travel, have asked, "When are we going home?"  Not once. 

And maybe...just maybe...that means they feel "at home" with our homelessness?  The way their wanderlust-mother feels at home?

I really, really love these little persons.  And I can't wait to see the life they have ahead of them.