I’ve Raised My Family Abroad For A Decade, But My Sister’s Family Has Never Visited

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living abroad with kidsWhen you move far away from home, there’s always an initial burst of house guests, excited to take advantage of a friend (with a pull-out sofa) abroad. Around year two they start to taper off. By then, pretty much everyone who’s anyone in your life has had a go. This very week I happen to be celebrating a decade living across the pond, so you can imagine how many house guests we get these days.

Most people would consider this a relief. But I’m still waiting – and waiting – for the one person you might call our guest of honor. In 10 years, my sister has never made the trip to London to see us.

Wait, that’s not exactly true. A little more than nine years ago she passed through after a business trip in Paris, then rushed back home to Canada. But you get the idea. We’ve moved house twice since then and, frankly, she wouldn’t know either of those places from Buckingham Palace.

Why? Well, I can easily say why not: we’re not estranged, we’re not mired in a 10-year war of words. We’re both healthy (reasonably), young (relatively), armed with legs and multiple passports. We’re just different people.

Siblings are often defined by their differences. The smart one and the pretty one. The aggressive one and the sensitive one. The tomboy and the princess. The blonde and the brunette. The daddy’s girl. The mama’s boy. My sister and I were none of those. If anything, she was the intrepid one and I stayed closer to home.

Becoming parents changed that. My first daughter came along while I was ensconced in the life of an expat, so a certain amount of travel was understood and anticipated. We picked up her passport when she was six weeks old. At 10 weeks we were all in Berlin, as a dress rehearsal for traveling back home the following month. We survived both those trips and others, shedding gear and inhibitions with each security check. By her first birthday she’d amassed the stamps of eight nations on that passport, and with her sister traveled even further afield.

So what’s held my sister back? Perhaps each year that went by was one closer to my move back home. And why make the trip when you can just wait for the other one to move first? In other words: inertia.

Maybe the onus was on me to make the effort. I was the one to leave in the first place, so shouldn’t I be expected to log the miles – 14 round-trips’ worth of miles, to be exact – home.

More likely, life got in the way. For my sister there was first a wedding to plan. Then a honeymoon, followed by a pregnancy, after which the real excuses kicked in. There was the return to work, the beach vacation (so much more sensible than London for a young family) and another pregnancy. Jobs were lost and found, commitments with the in-laws came up, school schedules hit, holiday concerts and home renovations.

Above all there was that nagging anxiety: what the heck am I going to do with two kids in London?

At times I’ve asked myself the same question.

So how can I argue? Like I said, siblings have their differences, even when it comes to their parenting styles. And there have been times I’d rather have had my front door bolted from the outside than get on a plane with two toddlers for eight hours. Is there ever a good time for jet lag? No, absolutely not. But I believe the benefits of travel, of adventure, of change outweigh the disadvantages. She, it is clear, does not.

Ultimately, however, I’m happy where I am, and she where she is. There’s a rhythm to each of our lives that keeps us comfortable, keeps us from going mad. Hers is a little bit country; mine a little bit rock ’n’ roll.

There was a time she could’ve convinced me to do anything. I, on the other hand, have never been much of a salesperson. So at least one thing hasn’t changed.

I wish it would, though.

(Photo: Gorilla/Shutterstock)