I have lived in England for about 5 years now, having come from Canada; leaving all of my family and friends behind. I feel like my 'real life' began here though, as an adult - I started married life while I was here, I am working and have a good career here, and I have had both [soon three!] of my kids here. So I do feel established, and I do feel this is my home. The part that has been missing, and it is a big part, is that I have had no family here. I hear about my friends and how their mums watch their kids once a week, or babysit now and again, and are at all the kids' birthday parties...the type of normal family stuff that I am sure isn't taken for granted, but is certainly taken as a given.
What I would give to have someone around like that for support....every day...once a week...even once a month!
My husband's parents live overseas, as they decided to retire into beachside life. My mum and dad and sister are all overseas - parents in Canada, my sister and her family have been in NY. She and I have had very similar adult 'real life' experiences, in that our kids have been born VERY close - the first set only 3 weeks apart, and the second set only 3 months apart. We had always imagined it would be so cool to have the kids know each other, and be friends (as cousins are ALWAYS forced to be friends while growing up, aren't they??!!), but the older boys have only met each other once (when they were mere weeks old) and the little ones have not met at all! Unless Skype counts? They have had a handful of fleeting glances of each other while on Skype video, but a wiggling toddler in your lap looking at a blurry video screen is not quite the magic stuff relationships are made of.
Now I am having another baby, I remember my sister saying "That's great! We will have the big family I have always wanted!" (me thinking: yeah, dude, our big family that I'll have all the extra work of ;)!). She had to decide, though, after New York, where would they move to? Her husband was doing a post doc, and then was looking for a Professorship - which could have been anywhere. There was talk of many places including west coast USA, talk of Canada, talk of Australia aka The Moon, talk of England....wait... WHAT!!?? Really? REALLY??!! Not kidding. One of the options, and as it turned out it seems the 3 main options were Canada, Australia, and England. As in, less than a 2 hour drive from me, in England. HA HA no way!!!
When they told me the options were here with us in England, or going to The Moon (where surely we would realistically never see or hear from them again...well...you know what I mean though....) obviously my advisement was HERE!
It wasn't up to me though. It was heartbreaking to think that factors such as the job, the institution, job perks, career advancement, and lifestyle for their family might have them decide to go to The Moon. Ugh. So during a few months of edge-of-your-seat waiting on interviews, the right timing of interviews, flying here and there, and considering job packages, waiting for job offers to come in (at the right time)... it made for one anxious lady. Make that two - I am sure my sister felt what I did 100 times over. Then her husband came here for another interview, and stayed at our place a for a few days. We took him around to Wimpole Hall and the Hall Farm with the kids...the weather was great (thank goodness), we walked around the village, drove about... to show him how life in England with kids could be like. I really tried to sell the place, as you might imagine! Good thing it sold itself, anyway - I really do think it is a nice place to bring up kids, village or town, with good resources like the Children's Centres and whatnot, parks, interesting history, and everything is just so CLOSE! You can have quiet village life and a safe place to be with your kids, but still be only 10 minutes from the next big-ish city, or an hour from London. Compared to Canada, where living in the boonies in some village really does mean you are living in the boonies, with no escape route, it's GREAT here.
They chose England.
So, somehow, everything has all come together. He got the job here. He WANTED the job here. He liked the lifestyle here. Plus the fact that it IS important to have family around, and have the kids be a part of an extended family...truthfully, part of an extended family I thought my kids would never have - and I am sure my sister thought the same. I mean, what are the chances that both of us would end up settling in another country, out of anywhere, and both end up in the same country - only a short drive apart?
Their stuff had been shipped a few weeks ago, and their place has been sorted out. The cats got shipped last week and are settling in. My sister and the kids are now preparing for their flight, their ONE WAY flight, which leaves tonight. Can you believe it?!
And this begins the next chapter of our 'real life'. A real life PLUS family. This will change our kids lives dramatically - although they don't know it yet. But the difference in relationship ties comparing family available thousands of miles away, or family 50 miles away, is HUGE.
So, sister, welcome to England. I am really pleased to have you. Really pleased. Thank you to the powers that be. I hope the powers that be also give her a break on that flight tonight; tonnes of luggage, two car seats and 2 toddlers, alone on the 7 hour flight. It will be worth it though. Welcome to a new start. We'll be here for you.