29 Feb 2012

Sometimes our kids don’t need us to teach, but to listen

{This started out as a Five Minute Friday post. I liked it. And then I wanted to edit it a bit. And finish it. So I did.}

He holds his heart as we wait at the red line in the immigration queue.

His face has a puzzled look. Passports slide back our way and we crane necks for one last look, one wave, one jump up and down and blowing of last kisses. Then with heavy back packs we start the long journey to gate A49.

Familiar sights and sounds and tastes line the way and my tummy hurts at passing them good bye.

He holds my hand and I’m all a rush and he’s all slower and slower until we’re finally stopped in front of the Kudu head and biltong stand. My eyes are set on where we need to be so it takes me by surprise when I look down and see the tears leaking slowly out of his own surprise.

He’s rubbing his chest. Rubbing it hard and bewildered and if only I could climb in and make it better.

“It hurts,” he says. “Mom, it just hurts so much.”

I can hardly stand to watch his face at it processes separation for the first time, since he’s not too toddler to care.

Like heart burn he keeps trying to swallow it down. But this burn, it doesn’t go out. Twelve years in and mine is still a lump in my throat that no amount of swallowing can loosen.

I put my hand over his – this unique Jackson hand that grew in my belly in this country that gave birth to us both.

“Your heart hurts?”

I get down on my knees on the cold, speckled tile floor so that I can see right into him. Watch him nod back at me over his glasses frames. Pete and Micah and Zoe are already out of sight. It’s just me and Jackson and our homesickness lost in a sea of passengers passing all around us.

I try to find the right words. He’s inherited more than my blue eyes. He’s inherited a life time of feeling lost in between countries. Would I take it back if I could?

One day I will explain the gift wrapped in all this aching. I will show him how the parts that hurt are the parts that connect him in unique ways to the God who gave up home and family to come and live here with us. One day I will share the lessons.

But that’s not today.

Today is for not being embarrassed to cry with him. Today is for hugging him hard and telling him we hurt because we have a big love.

Today is for taking off his glasses and tracing my finger down his wet cheeks and letting him see my own. Today is simply about holding his hand and his heart and his homesickness as we try to find our way to Gate A49.

As we try to map our way home.



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  1. 1

    oh…Lisa-Jo. just perfect. *perfect*

  2. 2

    I remember the time our eldest granddaughter hugged me goodbye at the airport as we were leaving to go back to the country where God has called us to work. She threw her arms around me and wouldn’t let go. I thought that my heart would break. The goodbyes have never gotten easier and they are hard on both sides of the ocean. Leaving our homeland and family and friends, and leaving our adopted country and the family God has given us here. We cherish the time we have, whoever we are with and wherever we are.

  3. 3

    Oh Lisa-Jo! Can’t imagine the day when my littles cry leaving one home for another. Right now, they are only at the toddler stage and wonder why Mom is doing all the crying as we hug and leave. I’m coming to you for advice when I get to that stage! :) xx

  4. 4

    Oh friend….this ex-pat mama is sitting here half a world away from “home”, tears rolling down my cheeks. I’ve had such similar conversations with my oldest daughter. Their little lives are full of so many goodbyes. I don’t regret it, but it doesn’t make the process any easier. Your words have embodied my heart.

  5. 5

    so true…so true…I have been parenting a long time and I still need to remember…just listen…just hold their heart…give hugs…thanks for the reminder….blessings to you…

  6. 6

    Oh, that’s so beautiful! It’s hard enough feeling those emotions and leaving family (I live in a different country from mine too), but must be heartbeaking to see your children experiencing the same. Mine are only 2 and 3 months so I haven’t had to deal with that yet. One day perhaps. And on that day I’ll remember your words. Thank you xxx

  7. 7

    I have a lump in my throat reading this as it took me to the time my dad and step-mum had visited us here. As we waved them goodbye on the airport bus, I choked down my own tears of goodbye, and turned to walk back to the car with 2 children in tow, 1 skipping her young merry way, and the other silent. Half way on the short drive home, I caught sight of my 7 year old son’s shuddering shoulders in the rear view mirror and pulled over to try and offer comfort to a broken hearted grandson who really had no clue why his beloved grandparents would live on the other side of the world. He was angry with me that day – blaming me for living so far from “home” and I took it and tried to make sense of it all for him. Does it ever get any easier Lisa-Jo? I’m 5 years in, and I’m not sure it does, sometimes it feels harder. Thanks for your post today – it’s poignantly beautifully written.

    • 8

      (((hugs))) I’m 3 years in and it’s not any easier for us, either. In fact, it seems to get harder as they grow and can understand more/better just what they are missing out on. I’ve noticed, so far, my 7 year old bonds quickly, and über fiercely, so her heart breaks every.time. Someone leaves, or we leave. It’s so painful, but I pray she never becomes jaded and stops living people.

      • 9

        Jennifer, thank you for your kindness and the hugs! Much needed, and it helps so much to know that others struggle with this same thing. This post and your response prompted me to write this today ~
        I found myself longing for my sister, but also realize that the “sisters” I have right here in real life, and through our blog connections lessen the impact of the homesickness. Thanks again x

  8. 10

    Such a beautiful post, it makes my heart ache… I know what it’s like to be stuck between countries and cultures too, so much so that I find it surprising when I move again and a small root finds a way to call the new place “home.”

  9. 11

    You are so brave, so are your little ones…..much more than I have been……

  10. 12

    Hartseer~ xx

  11. 13

    Oh my…
    My son is just 4, and your post brought a glimpse into the future for me. The ache and blessing of living between worlds. His only cousins and his first true friends live an ocean away. He asks so often when we will see them, and Grandma, and Opa. And how do I explain that he still must wait 1/2 a year, practically a lifetime for a boy his age?

  12. 14

    did I mention how much I love you?

  13. 15

    beautiful, simply beautiful!

  14. 16

    Beautiful! Truly beautiful!

  15. 17

    What an excellent mom you are :)


  1. [...] I take for granted. I wonder how they do it, not just logistically, but how do they cope with the heartache that comes from being separated from loved [...]

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