We had only been back about four days when my twelve year old son announced that he wanted to go to his friend’s house for a sleepover.  I did not respond right away, rather I took myself downstairs, buried my head in a pillow – and quietly sobbed.

Is it possible to miss a child even when they are standing right in front of you?  When they wake up in the same house as you, and move in the same life?  Yes it is.  I miss my kids and they are right here.

I just returned six weeks ago with my two sons (nine and twelve) from “The World”.  For 139 days we traveled, just the three of us, carry-on luggage only – to South East Asia, India, Nepal, New Zealand and Australia. It was a long-time dream of mine, to take them out into the world and expose them to cultures so different from their own.  We had an incredible time.  I keep describing it as transformative.  And it was definitely challenging.

Returning from the World

But in between “incredible, transformative and challenging”, was just the three us – always together, one solid unit. This was what was the most meaningful.  Not at home, me pulling them out of bed each morning and asking about homework after school. Not disciplining them for wrong doings or confiscating iPods. I still washed their clothes (by hand!) but it seemed less like a chore “out there” and more a part of the exhilarating adventure we were all on together.   I was their mother and their guide, yes – but it felt we were more like friends, than parent and child.  There were even times when they had to scold me for impatience or not being tolerable enough. These were great lessons – for all of us. Everything we did, from riding camels and elephants, to meandering in bustling, noisy and chaotic Indian markets, to catching a glimpse of the Himalaya’s for the first time, or standing in awe in front of the Taj Mahal – we did together, side by side, always watching out for one another.  My boys and I, three small backpacks … and a new world of discovery around each corner.

But we are home now, reluctant members of an organised, structured society again.  It has taken some time to settle back in, to say the least.  The boys are back at school – the youngest loving it, the oldest – not so much.  They missed their friends, they missed their Dad, and so I knew that I would lose them a little upon return. That we would all scatter back into the corner of our own lives, meeting for meals, homework help, family outings and occasional movies on Friday nights.

Returning from the World

I had prepared for that and I kept telling myself that it was all part of the journey too.  For almost five months we slept in the same room, often in the same bed.  And as much as I moaned silently to myself when I got a size five foot in my face in the middle of the night, I miss this closeness now (although not the foot!).  I miss waking up each morning, often in a new town, energetically embracing all the unknown opportunities that were before us.  I miss observing the joy, wonder (and occasional shock horror) on still innocent faces as they navigated unknown and exotic lands.  What story would we create today?  What would we learn about ourselves and the world?

Now, at home, that magic has passed. The newness that was life each day has left us temporarily – at least it has left me.

Philosophically, I know that each and every day holds so many wonderful opportunities, and that we must embrace them, whether we are travelling the world, or shopping for groceries in our neighbourhood. And I know that in time, when the memories of our journey have taken root in a back shelf of my mind, I will get over this.  But for now, I have to say, that it is an awfully strange feeling, looking at my child right in front of me, and wanting to cry because I feel  I have lost them.

Returning from the World -- Camel

They have both grown so much over the past months, and I am exceptionally proud of them.  They have had their own way of integrating it all. They speak of it on occasions, but less and less as time goes on.  This is the nature of children.  They have a remarkable ability to let go and move on, embracing the moment they find themselves in.  Do they look at me while I am rushing them out the door for school in the morning and think, “I sure miss “travelling” Mum”.  I don’t think so. Maybe they do – they have not said. But I really don’t think they are wired that way yet.  They just see me waving goodbye to them at the door some mornings, with tears rolling down my cheeks and probably think “What the heck is wrong with her?  We are only going down the block … not back to India!”

I captured a small piece of our lives together and packaged it with airline tickets, immunisations, culture shock and family reunions.  I wrapped it all in gratitude, love, learning and togetherness.  For 139 glorious days, I had them with me, beside me, talking to me, learning with me.  We spoke of worldly things, we experienced suffering and joy and we faced our fears.  We laughed, argued and cried together.  We got lost together.   We found family together.  Their minds were open and their hearts were pure. They were kind and brave and they embraced it all.  Now we get up at the same time every day, school, lessons and regular life before us. We don’t talk of worldly things as much.  I don’t get kicked in the face at 3am.

Returning from the World

But instead of focusing on how much I miss them, I know I need to start to pay attention to that gleam in their eye that perhaps wasn’t there before.  Or the self-confidence and awareness that has become a part of them now.  Or the fact that they are growing up and do not need me as much anymore.  I need to let them go just a little, for this is why I took them out into the world in the first place.  So they could grow to be good men, better humans and understand our world with unspoilt eyes and be more compassionate in it. I may not be seeing the full effect of this journey on them now – and perhaps I will not for years, but I need to take peace and solace in knowing that I am witnessing this unfolding in them, little by little – just now from a distance.

*Putting life and school on hold for a few months (or longer!) to take your kids out into the world is something that will be life changing for all of you! Yes it takes oodles of organising, but it can be done!  I have so many wonderful stories to share of my life on the road with my boys and will be talking about it on occasions here.  If you feel inclined to read our travel blog, please go to: www.placeswewillgo.weebly.com.

Carpe Diem.

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