When I took my son, Jack, for his eight-week immunizations at the clinic near our house in London, I was ready for tears — his at being jabbed with needles nearly as long as his little thighs are wide, and mine at seeing my baby in pain. What I wasn’t expecting were the tears (OK, sobs) later that night, about the nurse’s offhand comment on hearing I was from Canada and my partner is English: “Oh, so you’re one of those families that is always going to be living in the wrong country, then!”
I moved to the UK in March 2010, expecting to enjoy a year of travel and adventure before moving back to Toronto to settle back into my “real” life. What I wasn’t expecting was to embark on a lifelong adventure in parenting on this side of the pond. And while I did have nine months to get used to the idea of raising Jack far from the friends and family I always assumed my child would grow up with, it took the nurse’s comment for the reality to sink in. After all, I spoke to my mom daily in the weeks leading up to Jack’s birth — enjoying a closeness so gratifying I could almost put out of my mind the fact that we’ve actually never been so far apart. But in the throes of labour, I really couldn’t care less that my hospital room enjoyed a view of Big Ben. I just wanted my mommy.
I know we’re not alone in raising our son in the “wrong” country. So how do you make where you live the “right” country? In our house, it involves the fanciest web cam I could find (Jack is in for a shock when he realizes that his grammie does not, in fact, live in the computer). It involves hefty phone bills, photo and video sharing, and carving out time, despite time differences, to make sure there’s ample space in our lives for all of the above. And plane tickets. Lots and lots of plane tickets.
Keeping in mind the small matter that my partner has never actually been to Canada (and finds temperatures exceeding 17 degrees or falling short of eight degrees “roasting hot” and “freezing cold,” respectively), the idea of moving back to Toronto is still on the table. But in the meantime, here we are. When I need a hit of home, technology lets me draw friends and family a little closer. I continue to speak Canadian — calling his “nappies” diapers and his “push-chair” a stroller, and taking him oot and aboot to see the sights. But the biggest help of all comes from the little dude himself. Sure, the future is a bit up in the air (and yes, we will be spending a lot of time in the air no matter where we land), but for Jack, right now is all that matters. He reminds me that wherever this little family I’ve somehow created happens to be, is exactly the right place.