Children ask questions all the time. I love that. I love kids’ curiosity. Sometimes, it looks like an endless inquisition but I never get bored. I always answer my son’s questions because I know this is the way he learns about the world. It is OK even when he begins a long ‘why’ examination. I admit, I have no clue why he asks ‘why’ at least a hundred times a day.
No problem at all, my boy. I will keep replying to you patiently doing my best to find meaningful answers.
But some questions are more difficult to answer. The questions a child of immigrants could ask their parents. My son has been asking me where we live for over a year, or with other words since we moved to the United Kingdom.
An ordinary, innocent question that just comes out of his mouth, nothing disturbing. Kids never ask in order to be mean or hurt adults’ feelings wittingly; their nature is too pure for that. I’m sure my son’s only intention is to make it clear. And this is what actually worries me. Because every time he asks where we live, I see a confused little boy standing before me.
Not a question to help him understand the world, but one to help him understand our world. Where do we belong? Why don’t we live in Sofia, Bulgaria anymore? Not only did we leave, but we went to another city for a few months before we leave again and fly away to London. How come? Why? Now we are back to Bulgaria. How long is it going to be this time? Mummy says it is just a holiday but what does this mean? Where are we going to afterwards? Sofia? London? Where is our home now?
So many things have happened in the last year or so, too many for a child’s mind to take in. Too abrupt a shift, too many new things. Everything is different, even his birthday party was. All those huge changes had been thrown upon him, and he was supposed to adapt.
He is adapting. Actually, I can see him happy in the UK. I can see him enjoy being there already. He often asks me when we are going back to London. Maybe, now it feels like home…
Children are brave and resilient. I believe, they could adjust to anything far easier than we do. They don’t suffer the burden of adulthood, they don’t take the challenges the way we do. And moving to another country is a terrific challenge.
Moving to another country is traumatic. Oh, how stressful the whole thing was for my poor child! I will never forget how scared and bewildered he was in the very beginning. How bad the language barrier at nursery. How confusing the new situation we had got into… In our homeland, he rarely cried without reason; in the UK we have experienced the most unpleasant tantrums ever.
‘Mummy, where do we live?’ I’m not afraid of answering this. On the contrary, every time I am ready to explain it in detail – why we no longer live where he was born; what has happened to our Bulgarian home, car, etc.; why he is starting school at the age of 4, whereas his friends in Bulgaria will continue going to nursery until they turn 6 or 7; if we are moving to another house…
I will be answering these questions over and over again and this is perfectly fine. If you ask me about guilt, yes, it is there, somewhere deep in my soul. Sometimes, it hurts. Sometimes, it’s too overwhelming to bear. Sometimes, it makes me have doubts. Why have we done all this to our little boy? Is it worth it? Why is he the one to suffer most because of a decision his parents have made without asking about his opinion? Aren’t we stealing pieces of his childhood because of a dream? Our dream, not his!
But despite all the questions, despite the doubt and uncertainty, and all the things our child had to overcome, despite all the forthcoming challenges, I still believe we have done the right thing. I think we moved to the UK at the right moment. Because the younger the children, the less traumatic the experience. At least, this is what my inner voice has whispered to me. I am sure every parent whose family lives an expat life will understand.
I hope my son will understand too. One day… For the time being, his mother will be here answering kindly all his questions. And I thank him with all my heart for being my brave little hero!