It’s nearing the end of the calendar year, when a somewhat smaller group of families repatriate to their home countries, leaving Beijing and their friends behind. It’s always a struggle, especially when you have children, accepting that people move and others come to take their space – but not their place – in our lives. During this change, we all feel a sense of abandonment or disappointment or lack of control, just maybe not in the same way.
Most children, we might all agree, are pretty adaptable to situations of change. They may not like it, but they do tend to adjust to new schools and neighborhoods well, find friends and get connected. Stay–at–home moms tend to bond at the bus stop or in school, and often just in the neighborhood. Because everyone is in the same boat of having to start over again, there’s a connection that’s made more quickly…no wasting time. People are more willing to reach out, help out, connect.
I noticed in my household that one of my daughters has more “I want to go home” meltdowns as these times of year approach. It’s then that she learns who is leaving and when. It’s then that she claims someone as her “best friend ever” and is devastated to lose her. While in the midst of helping her understand that she can keep in touch with her friends, and that other new kids arriving will need lots of friendship support so that they can fit in, inside I cry for her loss.
And for my own. I’m an adult, so I should be able to handle these moves a bit more easily. I know the cycle ahead of time, and I know who is leaving. Some cycles hit home more than others. And some you just refuse to accept.
That’s happening to me for the first real time since arriving in Beijing. I pre-made a connection with someone before actually moving here. Through an expat online group, we formed a friendship to the point that it was like seeing an old friend when we met for the first time. We don’t have some of the same typical connections that just happen when you move here – being friends with the neighbors, school moms, etc. No, we live further apart, do not have children the same ages who play together, and we are from different parts of the world. And now she’s leaving me. She’s leaving Beijing – very reluctantly, I might add. And ouch, this one hurts.
I share these feelings with my daughters. It’s important that they see me go through the same emotions that they do when someone dear to them moves on. It’s almost a grieving process of sorts, and support needs to be provided to those of us left behind, even if that means just being able to share your sadness with one other person. One day it will be us moving. It’ll be a different kind of difficulty for us then, but we’ll be leaving others behind who will miss us dearly.
Such is the life of an expat family. Even for those who move frequently, it doesn’t really get easier. We just find better ways of coping when it does. If friends are leaving, we say zaijian and truly wish to keep in touch as much as we say we will. If we are the ones going, we shed a tear and embark on a new adventure.
Life goes on.