When my husband and I decided to move from Iowa to Florida a few years ago, we knew that meant giving our children a different growing up experience than we had. Instead of snow days and piles of leaves, they’d have beaches and possible hurricane evacuations. We considered it a fair trade. These days we’re asking our kids to give up even more, and I’m not always sure I’m comfortable with our decision.
This year would have marked my son’s first year of middle school. He would have had his first locker combination and his first school dance. Instead, he’s spent the first half of the school year traveling around the eastern half of the United States. Sure, he’s seen Niagara Falls and been to New York City, but I’m not so sure an almost-12-year-old boy appreciates tourist attractions over school yard drama. At the same time, I know exactly zero adults who would willingly relive junior high. Perhaps I’m doing him a favor by giving him an alternative lifestyle during these traditionally awkward years.
My daughter is in first grade. I don’t remember anything significant about first grade, including the name of my teacher, but that doesn’t mean I don’t agonize over what she’s missing. Would she have had a best friend? Her first crush? Is she missing out on not being able to walk home or ride her bike around the neighborhood?
My worry is that I don’t know how this turns out, where this is this unexpected version of childhood. I know what I experienced and I have always been prepared to coach my kids through something similar when the time came, but I have no idea what issues may arise from living as a mobile family at the age of 6 or 12. It’s scary enough to lead myself into unknown territory; it’s downright terrifying to push my kids down a brand new path.
Of course, I do it anyway. I guess at what I think they’ll miss and what I hope they’ll gain and weigh the two columns against each other, making nothing more than a hypothesis when it comes to decision time. I imagine it’s similar to what my mom did when she decided to go back to school with three children at home. Somehow that helps. After all, I turned out just fine.