Forget the ex(patriation) and (re)patriation experiences, I am currently being challenged by a whole other dimension of this experience … namely, patriation (not even sure this is word on its own!?)
For those who do not know me, and there are a few :), I was born a Canadian expatriate to Canadian/Jamaican parents, in Germany. By the time I was 10 I had lived not only in my country of birth, but three others – namely, Colombia, Brazil and Canada. Different countries, different languages, different schools, different friends – new each time. This pattern only ended 6 years ago. Up until that time, and from my tenth birthday onwards, I relocated 10 more times. Sure there were a few repetitions, in terms of countries, but by no means a repetition of experience. It is one thing to relocate as a child, quite another to do so for your own career or that of a partner and yet a whole other kettle of fish as a parent.
The point of this blog though – is how I came to the conclusion that I am in fact facing a challenge I am somewhat unequipped for, that of actually finding, and providing my children with, a patria. My parents were exemplary in how they provided me with an identity from a country I actually spent relatively little time in. I am, first and foremost, Canadian … even if I can still be perplexed by some elements of my homeland. I do also though, feel Dutch – principally the result of having children who are themselves half Dutch.
When I first came to Holland, it was a expatriate experience. Recently married to a Dutchman repatriating himself for the first time I took the lessons of expatriation – be curiuos, listen and learn and combined them with common sense: make friends with people who will still be here when you return! Following three years here, we left and were expatriates, again – though this time I was carrying a Dutch passport and some Dutch culture with me. We returned regularly in between our 8 years overseas, which for me was a chance to listen and learn some more.
Six years ago we returned, and as fate or life would have it, it does not seem likely that I will be relocating again. This is home.
Last week at my son’s football club I commented to him that the people enjoying a drink in the summer sunshine were the same that had done so the day before, and the day before that – and were the same that were planning joint summer holidays. I must have made this comment with some surprise, for my son looked up at me with a ‘yes, and your point is..’ look which proved, again, that mothers and preteen children can indeed seem to live on different planets!
Point is, for me, having a group of people with whom I always socialise and plan holidays is completely alien. In my youth our holidays were planned around getting together with people we had NOT seen in some time, we were always meeting new people, making new friendships. In fact, in my youth I longed for such an experience … having friends who literally knew everything about me, and my family. How I romanticised about this – and wondered what it was like ….
Today I wonder how one does that. How does one actually see and regularly socialise with the same people, day in day out. What is there to talk about if each one has been part of every experience you have already had? Where is the discovery, the curiosity? This are by no means judgement queries – they are honest ones based on incomprehension.
There are two conclusions to the thoughts that have accompanied these questions. One, my children and I will remain far apart on our common experiences – though I look forward to the day when they turn around and ask me what mine was like, in curiosity of course. The second conclusion I have drawn is that it is perhaps for this reason that I am so drawn to networking – since I am here to stay (at least for a longer while than I am used to), by networking I can continue to learn, listen and be curious about the world around me.
Patriation – still working on that one, while I network my way within The Hague community. One thing is certain however, this mother can learn from her children in this process. From among the children who today have playdates with my children are a few who out of courtesy and friendship to my children, will be there on my birthday 20 years from now! Patriation has very interesting concepts indeed ….