Leaving for London

London collage.And I said, what a pity, To have just a week to spend,When London is a city,Whose beauties never end!

This line of a poem sent by my daughter Stefanie sums up some of our feelings as my 15-year-old son and I travel to London today. We arrive early morning in the United Kingdom and will be joined by Stefanie arriving from Milan and Cliff, my husband, arriving from Edinburgh in late evening.Stef and Jonathan will be introduced to London with all its history and charm as this is their first visit.

As we prepare I realize once again how vast the world is and the magic of travel. Along with the magic of moving between worlds and cultures will be a sweet reunion with Stefanie. Stefanie is 19 and has been on a gap year between graduating from high school and entering college. Her experiences have taken her from Milan to Istanbul and London will be our reconnection between coming back to life in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Reunions for the third culture kid are many and often. Hellos are frequent, goodbyes more so. Trying to work through the complexity of being willing to get to know someone only to let them go is a challenge in this context. The tendency at points is feeling it’s not worth while, that the goodbyes are too painful and bring about unresolved grief and loss. Dave Pollock who worked extensively with third culture kids until his death says this:

“one of the major areas in working with TCKs is that of…dealing with the issue of unresolved grief. They are always leaving or being left. Relationships are short-lived.At the end of each school year, a certain number of the student body leaves, not just for the summer, but for good.It has to be up to the parent to provide a framework of support and careful understanding as the child learns to deal with this repetitive grief. Most TCKs go through more grief experiences by the time they are 20 than monocultural individuals do in a lifetime.”

It’s also self-perpetuating – just as we said a lot of goodbyes and faced continuous loss as kids, we bring up our children with a love of travel and the world so we continue to face these partings, only now it’s with our most precious commodity – our kids.

But then we go through that glorious feeling of reunion where your hugs are so tight that you can hardly breathe and you can’t talk fast enough to get all the missing thoughts and words of the last months and years out of your heart and head and into the heart and head of the other person. And you know in that instant that no matter how much it hurts to say goodbye, it makes the reuniting all the sweeter. That as much as you think you want that other persons life – the one who has lived in the same house for 30 years and has all of their family within a 5 mile radius – it will never be so for you and your family and that’s quite alright!