I’ve just come back from about a week long vacation in Hawaii. As you might imagine, it was a pretty amazing time. Even more amazing because we met my whole family there. My mom, dad, sister and brother and their families and my aunt and uncle too. We rented a house and spent the whole glorious week swimming and playing, eating and chatting.
When I asked the kids what their favorite thing about Hawaii was they both told me it was seeing their cousins, Dylan and McKenna. Actually, my son said, “super, super, super, super-DUPER Dylan and McKenna”.
Because I was a military brat myself, I know how hard it can be to maintain a strong family connection, so it makes me feel good to hear those words from my kids. Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of contact with my extended family. I’d see my grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles every couple of years, sometimes more often depending on where we lived. But, “back in the day” you had to pay for long distance phone calls…write letters the old fashioned way. And Skype? Forget about it. It was hard to stay in touch. Today we have so much to stay connected, so it’s different now…isn’t it??
Whenever I spend time together with my family and then leave, I wonder if it is. We live thousands of miles apart. Is it possible, really, honestly, for my kids to continue to have a close relationship with my family as they get older if we continue to live this nomadic lifestyle?
And yet we still move. We even choose to move. We chose to move here, to Korea, about as far from “home” as you can get. In our day-to-day life our family thrives living in foreign countries. Each day we get to learn, discover and explore. We meet fascinating people from all over the world. On base we are part of what can seem like this idyllic 1950′s community, where kids ride their bikes to the store, people know their neighbors, and bumping into a familiar face at the commissary or park is commonplace. And all of that is wonderful.
So which is better: Forging close bonds with the extended family we love and care about–giving “roots” to our children? Or, living a day-to-day lifestyle that feels safe, wholesome, and fulfilling to our family?
As DoD civilians we have some input in deciding where to make our home and some really amazing opportunities around the world. While military life is different, several friends have shared similar concerns about how to balance extended family bonds with immediate family needs, and with deployments thrown into the mix, it’s even more angst inducing.
For us, the biannual what’s next for the Garcia family decision-making process plays out something like this:
1) Hem and haw about where to put in for next…The base with the day drive from family?… The exciting overseas adventure?
2) Spend days Googling the possible locales
3) Make a Pros and Cons list
4) Make “The Right” decision
5) Wait for months for The List to come out while creating elaborate imaginary life in XYZ
6) Find out where we are going — usually not in place XYZ.
7) Make the best of it.
I don’t have a clear answer for what kind of life is best for my kids. I have a feeling it won’t ever be clear for me and I’ll hem and haw and make pros and cons lists far, far into the future.
Here is something clear though. It’s the picture I got in the airplane of Mt. Fuji while coming back from Hawaii in the middle of writing this post.
The kids climb onto my lap and are so excited about how awesome it is. Wow! A volcano! That’s SO cool!! My husband asks them if they want to climb it and they shout, “Yes!” And I know it’s true. They are some of the few kids in the whole world who really CAN climb Mt. Fuji. And look at them seeing it in real life and admiring it RIGHT NOW. How amazing is that?! So for now, my anxiety dies down…and I take a moment to appreciate our luck.
Korea Ye! website