and one flew home

Home?When I wrote the tagline to this website (that’s it up at the top of the screen, to the top right of the photograph of the lake) I was convinced that our empty nest was permanent.

As you may recall from the posts back before Christmas, I did not find this relocation easy. Being without children to ferry to and from school and band practice and sports events meant that I actually only needed a car to go shopping. I didn’t really need to go out either. Worse, I was really scared about driving and was secretly glad we did not get a car til four months in.

Then my parents came to visit, and the place began to feel like home. As soon as I became tour guide I began to settle in a bit. I was brave enough to start driving, partly because I had to take them out, but mostly because I would not be alone in the car.

Two weeks later and I had a long trip planned to Europe and the FIGT conference in Washington and was delighted to have a massive excuse not to try and drive on my own quite yet. Telling people I ‘lived in KL now’ began to roll off the tongue.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, our 21-year-old, Joshua, has decided to join us here for a while. I actually wrote ‘come home’ just then, but decided to write ‘join us here’ instead. You see, though the city is now Ian and my home, how can I expect our son, who has never been here before to call it that? It’s not his home, is it? The house we own in the Hague is rented out now. We don’t own another property. Joshua does not have a bedroom here. Our single spare room is set aside for any guests who visit – and that includes our children.

However, he’s here on and off til October and of course I am delighted.  I notice he has already moved the furniture about in the spare room and stuck pictures on the wall. When his brother, Sam, joins us in August, they will have to share it. When he leaves again it won’t be his room any more. When additional guests come, he will have to sleep on the sofa.

Oh s**t, OUR CHILDREN HAVE NO HOME has been screaming at me for the last few weeks and I feel bad. This thought never crossed my mind when we packed up our flat in Holland eight months ago.

Like I said, we never expected our nest to refill, albeit for a short time, but along with the joy of having a driving buddy, who makes me braver about going further and venturing to places I have never even heard of, comes thoughts of home, for him, for me, for all of us and wondering how much it matters. I’d love to know what you think.


26 thoughts on “and one flew home

  1. Though it may sound lame….the expression is true: home is where the heart is (and your stuff). Sure Josh feels the same way. Received in love and warmth he is adding his stuff (to the walls) and calling it, making it his home, for now. And you, and Ian well …The love is there, as is some stuff…so….there you are, at home. For travelling nomands scenery and address may change but we are good at making a home wherever we are – without forgetting we have others, elsewhere.

    Was so good to see you recently, as you travelled between homes. Vak


      1. Maggie, a tough one. But the empty nest is horrid whenever it happens and however much too soon you consider it to be. Ours was empty for two years but we were only a train ride away from both of them. They could come for the weekend. Alex can come for lunch whenever he likes and I bet he is much tougher on the parents than the kids, I think. You’ve been raising kids for decades, for you, to go from 6 to zero must be desperate. I feel for you. At least you have a view, the dogs and grandkids down the road!


  2. Tough situation, I feel for you. It’s fun being an expat when the children are young… But the transitional years between teenager and adult, ‘the finding themselves years’ are always complicated no matter where you live.

    Let me tell you what I’m going through…
    I was a teenage mother. I’ve raised six kids. I can’t even remember what it is like not to have any responsibility. My youngest (18 and autistic) is in his last year of school. Next year he is going to a very good boarding school for a year, where he will learn life skills.
    His brother (21) goes to university and lives in Stavanger. He has now informed me that he wants to move home next year, travel to school and hopefully save money.

    Do you see my predicament?
    I will finally have a year to myself. No one to cook and clean-up after. No one to worry about on a daily basis. My husband and I can do whatever we want, whenever we want (something we have never been able to do, since we already had four children when we married).

    I know what you are thinking… He’s 21. You don’t need to do anything for him, even if he does live home. But I do! I can’t help myself!
    I love him dearly, but I don’t want him to move home next year. Which gives me a bad conscience and makes me feel like a horrible mother.

    So don’t be so hard on yourself, Jo. My kid has a home and we still have a problem.
    In the end I can’t really stop him from moving home, so we’ll see…


  3. I grew up TCK and home was always where my parents were. Didn’t matter if it was a hotel room or a big house in Africa. When my parents moved to the Netherlands I was recently out of college with not much going on so I went to live with them for three months to help them get settled. Admittedly it was not the going home part that drew me in but the new country and a chance to travel. I would never have thought of making it permanent. Now my son is about to leave home for college. I know he will be back to visit but he wants to travel the world so unless I move to someplace exotic I doubt he will hang around much. Enjoy them while you can and remember you are their home.


  4. I think it’s worse for the parents than the kids to be honest. I’m sure the boys don’t feel as abandoned and homeless as you fear. We have been talking (for years) about moving somewhere else and the teens went berserk. We were talking about moving when they left for college, but they still said things like “Where am I going to stay when I want to come back here?” (They obviously haven’t heard of hotels.) Now, three years into college, the oldest stayed in DC last summer and is doing everything she can not to come home this summer. I don’t think she would care where we lived.


  5. Not too surprisingly, we both blogged about the same topic this week! So many of us are experiencing partial and empty nest ‘issues’. Once Luke leaves Monday, I can’t wait for the other two to find summer work so I have the house to myself! Call me a terrible mother, but we all feel similar, just as Maggie wrote, we are ready for ‘our’ time after all these years. Having said that, enjoy your time as it won’t be for long.


  6. You call it a nest and you call it a home and these things are different. Welcome back to the nest, dear Joshua, dear Sam… home will be here for you, wherever we nest for a time, so fly back often. Perch awhile and embrace the migratory life. Home is in the welcome.


  7. Just being able to spend time with your parents where ever they are is precious! I grew up as a TCK in Africa, as you know and then went to university in the Netherlands. I remember spending time with my parents in Malawi. I kind of thought I was “going home” but just being able to discover that so much had changed (as had I ) was very important. In the Netherlands I was so homesick for Africa, but after spending a couple of weeks with my parents I longed for my my own room near my university. It helped me accept times had changed and I had to move on. I read this great quote recently “life is like a bicycle, in order to keep your balance you must keep moving”.
    So enjoy the time with Joshua now. Maybe just the fact that you did not sell your house in the Hague helps the kids feel there still are some roots in the Netherlands, who knows? Greetings Janneke @DrieCulturen


  8. I wrote a little piece the other day about home being wherever my parents were because they moved with all their stuff with them. It was all familiar and it meant that as long as they had their belongings with them , the combination meant I felt I was ‘safe’ as in ‘home safe’, if that makes sense. Now my hardest time is that my children are all thousands of miles away and spend more time with their aunts than me! It was OK when they were coming home each holiday but I have just spent a whole Easter holiday without either of them. One working and the other wanting to work and see more of her new boyfriend. Boy, its been the hardest time. But I am trying hard to accept it is now their lives and I must move into a new phase even though I want to be around the corner. My parents have to accept it from me so I now appreciate it from both ends. Either way my kids love us just the same and fit us in whenever they can!


  9. Jo, the exchange you have generated on FB and on your site is so powerful, thank you. So many wonderful insights, shared experiences, and great quotes. I remember ‘moving home’ after university for a while to write my final thesis and the house my parents had recently purchased (named ‘De Hut’ which should tell you a little bit about its size) was so tiny that there was only one room. My abodes for those three months was a borrowed Dutch caravan that we parked next to ‘De Hut’. It didn’t matter. I was home. Like everyone said, don’t underestimate the who in where home is. You must have created, over all these years, a wonderful sense of home for him. You are you son’s home. Enjoy the moment, and take advantage of the good company to discover unchartered territory!


  10. This is going to be an important issue for expat families as young adult children take longer to “launch.” And it’s not just the emotional issues, as you point out, there are also the practicalities of accommodation. Our 27 yr old still lives at home – we moved back to “his” house when we repatriated. Ideally he will stay with us until he’s saved enough for a downpayment on a place of his own, but in the meantime it’s a significant impediment to us moving again (not that we really want to). Sending organizations are increasingly going to find “dependent adults” on the list of reasons for declining assignments .


  11. As an ATCK myself, raising TCKs I know what I’ll expect once they’ll be that age. But I don’t really look forward to it. I always considered “home” where my parents lived and I kind of “moved” with them even if I was living abroad. It didn’t matter if I had to sleep on the couch or if I had a proper bed, the most important thing for me was to spend time with them. They ended up moving to a house that would give me and my sister the opportunity to spend holidays with them with our whole families made things easier for them and us. My kids are still young but I know already that I’ll need a strategy to accept the empty nest one day. – The house in The Hague will certainly give your children the feeling to have some kinds of roots there, like Janneke said. My parents sold our home in Italy and I only managed to get back there more than 20 years later. It hurt too much…
    Enjoy the time with your son and don’t worry: wherever you are, it’s home for him. – Ute @expatsincebirth


  12. My own mother reads the blog and tried, but failed, to add this comment, so I am adding it for her…

    “After all these years of you living abroad, it makes my heart sing when you say “I’m coming home on…..” even though you have never lived in this house. As your friend said, home is where the parents are, so that must be what Sam and Josh feel. Difficult when up until recently neither of them had been to KL. Perhaps the Hague had become their home, because when they are smaller it doesn’t matter so much as long as you are together.”

    Thanks, Mum (actually, I don’t call her Mum, I call her Bizzy, but that’s another story!)


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