Why are we doing this anyway?
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I wish I had made time to read each of these, or that I could take them with me, but no instead I skim through sections of the book that I think will offer me the very best advice during the short segments of freetime I have for them.
As we've been preparing for this trip, I have gone back and forth wondering what my reasons are for wanting to go. How exciting!!!....wait a minute, we love our big fat American life in our Ann Arbor neighborhood with our Michigan dwelling friends and family just a car ride away. Why would we do anything to change our status quo?
15 weeks in Europe -- Is it the best gift I could ever give my kids? Is it a selfish dream that I am grasping at a chance to fulfill? Is it an adventure, or a chance to learn some really big life lessons? Or am I just crazy for packing up two preteens and a two year old to join my husband on his swiss work assignment.
We were not forced to go, it was a job that Brian raised his hand for. We were both excited about the opportunity, and had even daydreamed about something just like it as newlyweds. As the plans became more concrete --and then not-- and then firm again, I ran the emotional roller coaster of wanting this, then accepting we could cozy back into our routine and comfortable lives.
Why are we doing this anyway?
Lucky for me, one of those librabry books helped me to put my thoughts to words. So to have those ideas to look back on when the days are grey and the moods are black, I'll write them here:
As a teacher I have and want to instill a lifelong love of learning in my kids. Traveling helps us to learn about people and places in an emersive and unforgettable way. We'll create lifetime memories, and I'll have the joy of not just my own experiences, but also those through the eyes of my children. Two year olds are full of curiosity, and we will be equally exhausted and astonished by having Alexander along on our trip!
Helping the girls (and myself) to create personal connections to the global world is a skill that will serve us well throughout our lives in a way that taxi-ing to extra curricular activities, schooling, reading, and watching the Discovery Channel could never come close to. I've never much enjoyed the textbook version of history, but engaging my senses, and hearing local tales is something that I can really get into.
Being able to make a home so far from home will show us that even with cultural differences, we are all cut from the same cloth, so to speak, and our simillarities are plenty.
If we think of human experiences as a weaved cloth, each time we offer a new experience for learning we are adding a new colorful thread. Those contrasting weavable colors are what give us understanding and empathy for the world and for others, not to mention emotional and intellectual growth.
Having to jump into a new neighborhood and culture where we don't know where the shops are and don't even speak the language will be a lesson in humility, for sure. We will be forced rely on eachother, to spend time with eachother, and to feel the security of being part of a family. The yin to that yang is the independence that will grow from this experience. In going out to find the market, or the schools or the new friends we will build skills for dealing with unfamiliar situations, and so have a new confidence for dealing with the pressures of daily life at home. Many kids challenge themselves when they travel. They push themselves to do things they may not normally feel up for trying. These challenging experiences will equate to confidence and independence over time.
The natural world is as important as the cultural world we will learn about. My kids are comfortable calling a man-made ski hill a mountain right now. Having a view of the alps from our window will be breathtaking, no doubt. Though I am not someone who enjoys the blustery winter outdoors, being surrounded by people that have learned to do so may change me. Serena wants to try mountain climbing and go ice skating, Kayley is up for a ski lesson or two. Alexander is happiest when he can be outside for hours on end.
Adding joy to our lives in this non-routine way will be transformative for us. I plan to plunge whole-heartedly into the adventures that are in store for us. We will come home all the richer (and maybe a little poorer) because of it.