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There is something that hides away inside me, a fear that only arrived after the birth of our child. The fear of loss.

The realization that life is very precious and way too short was one of the unexpected hangovers of my childbirth experience.

Before we had Little Bear, living as an expat was exciting and held little concern for settling down.  Of course, I missed my family, but it never dawned on me just how many short precious years you have with the people you love.

That every year you are away from them and do not get to share your life with them is a loss.

That the people we love do not live forever.

We are still not entirely sure what our plans are, we enjoy being expats but I know that I do not want our children to grow up without any close family in their lives.   I want Little Bear to have those special moments only a grandparent can give, knowledge and acceptance from a close uncle or aunt and many precious memories of fun with the cousins.

It does not seem fair to bring him up as a Third Culture Kid (TCK) here in England.   England is the middle ground for us right now.

This is not to say that I want to be living on any family’s doorstep, but to at least be within a reasonable distance (time and cost wise) of each other. Only seeing each other once a year – if that – just does not cut it when you have a little one who is building a daily bank of memories of his world!

At times I feel guilty for falling in love and having a child with someone from the exact opposite end of the earth to where I am from.  Burträsk in northern Sweden and Cape Town in South Africa are literally poles apart!

Talk about complicating your life!

Should I feel guilty for having a child in a foreign country?   Will it lead to him being more open minded and accepting of others,  with a diverse range of friends and and and adventurous spirit?  Or could it go the other way and give him a craving for stability?  I guess we will just have to wait and see!

What is the impact, on a child, of living in a nuclear family opposed to an extended one?

Right now I am sister-sick.

These days I have a dull thump in my chest, which I try to ignore as best as I can.  I miss my sister so much it physically hurts.   She is the one person who knows me better than anyone else and is always there for me no matter what decisions I make – good or bad.  And believe me there have been some whoppers!

I miss chatting into the wee hours with her, I miss having a cup of tea and talking endless drivel with her.   Worst of all I miss giggling with her until my tummy hurts.

Sisterly love

Image courtesy of Mrinkk @ Stock.xchng

We were pregnant at the same time, but were living so far apart that we missed enjoying it together.  Knowing we were going through exactly the same things at similar times made us feel closer though.  In some respects we are so alike we could be twins – we often find that we are reading the same book or  buying the same perfume or products without having previously discussed it.

This sadness always worsens around now.  Somehow the knowledge that my favourite time of year is just around the corner creates, along with excitement, a huge hole in my heart.

I have not spent Christmas with any of my close family for over eight years now.  And although I am very lucky in that I get to spend most Christmases in a snowy landscape in northern Sweden with my partner’s amazing family,  who have always made me feel completely at home, I still feel my lips quivering and tears brimming  when calling my Mom or my sister on Christmas morning.

Right now I have not seen either of them for a year.  We are split over three different continents – Africa, Europe and America.  Arranging to get together is neither cheap nor uncomplicated.

When I first moved overseas it seemed a lot easier and I would sometimes only see them every second year, but since my sister and I have both had little ones in the past two years it has got so much harder.  I see photos of my little niece growing up and I know that I am missing so much of her life.  She will not recognize me when we meet again and I will not have any real part in her growing up.

The same goes for my little boy.  It makes my heart so heavy to know that my sister and my Mom do not know him.  They don’t get to see his funny dance moves or hear him singing ‘It’s raining, it’s pouring’ to himself.  But this is the huge downside to living life as an expat, although it has many rewards. Thank goodness we live in a world where instant communication via Skype and email is available! I have no idea how early pioneers managed!

So all I want for Christmas this year is a big hug from my sister or at least a set holiday date so that we know when we will be seeing each other again!  Luckily I am getting a really SPECIAL treat this Christmas time, my Mom will be joining us on our trip to Sweden this Christmas!  A gift I can hardly wait to receive!

Two of my favourite sisterhood quotes:

Sisters are different flowers from the same garden.

– Author Unknown

A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life.

– Isadora James

 

Do you live far away from your family?  How do you overcome the barriers of being so far apart?