The excitement that is summer.
It is hard for anyone to contain their excitement for summer, but even more so when you are an expat. For families who live overseas, summer is synonymous with returning home, visiting family and friends, and going back to a place of comfort and familiarity. For our family, it means spending time with family boating and cooking out in the wilderness of Virginia. It’s blueberry picking, playing in Lake Michigan with cousins, and delighting in red, white, and blue popsicles. It’s having a lemonade stand and going out for “American-style” pancakes at IHOP at any hour. It’s s’more-making, slip-n’-slides, and good old shopping trips to Target and Trader Joe’s. It’s seeing a children’s film at the movie theater in English. Going home is the ultimate.
With that being said, we always seem to encounter the same disappointment (one which we often choose to ignore) during these visits home. As much as we look forward to getting back and seeing everyone, our friends and families’ lives and routines continue and sometimes it is hard for them to find time for us. This is hurtful. This is painful. This is frustrating.
Hear me out on this. I’m conflicted.
In one respect, I understand that people have their routines, their commitments, their summer camps and vacation plans and that the world does not stop for us when we land State-side. I get that. I respect that.
On the other hand, I have just traversed oceans and continents with my three young children to see you. We have made multiple connections and crossed over several time zones to visit you.
Yet sometimes the ones we come to visit are simply too busy to make the 20-minute drive to where we are staying. Or in the span of one week, they only have a two-hour time window when kids will be home from summer camp and we can come say hello and have dinner (if we make the 2-hour round-trip drive to them, of course). Or they have kids they need to take to tutoring, swimming, you name it – so they don’t have time to sit and enjoy us. They are just – as they always are – busy.
I know that I’m complaining. And in all honesty, writing this is cathartic. But I feel that all too often these days people are not placing enough importance on maintaining relationships with family and friends. People (myself included) could do a better job at prioritizing and realizing what really matters in life. Is it that one day of theater camp or is it the chance to see friends you haven’t seen in a year or two? Is it that rushed schedule that you feel compelled to maintain or the chance to clear your schedule for a couple of days and enjoy the company of your loved ones? Priorities, priorities. What matters to you?
Maybe I feel this way because I’m getting older. Maybe it is harder for me than others because we do travel a long way to see our loved ones. Maybe it is because we want so much to savor this summer homecoming because we only have a short time to make and strengthen family bonds. Maybe it is our fault for choosing this transient lifestyle and moving away in the first place.
I’m sure it’s not coming from a place of malice on behalf of our family and friends. To be honest, I’m not sure they even realize that we feel hurt and disappointed by it. And I feel it’s patronizing and selfish to point out the fact that we wish they were around more when we come home to visit. After all, they have lives and things going on, too.
So where does this leave us? Do some conversations need to take place? Maybe. Do we need to readjust our summer plans and actually take a true summer vacation every other summer instead of coming home to carve time out for family and friends who aren’t around? Maybe. Do I just need to chill and realize that this is the way it is? I just don’t know. But one thing is certain, s’more-making and Trader Joe’s never do disappoint.
If you’re an expat how do you juggle going on “real holidays” vs visiting relatives back home? If you’re the one at home, how does it feel to have travelling families visit?
This is an original post for World Moms Network written by Loren Braunohler in Poland.