Shirani Alfreds is an expat mother of two living in Shanghai. She will be writing about her experiences in a regular "Dragon Mama" blog for Urban Family.
So this is it! Summergeddon is upon us, together with the plum rain season, Brexit, and generally all things depressing. Half our friends group are ‘nexiting’ - moving on to next destinations or their homelands (yes, we’ve questioned if it's us!) and it feels empty and lonely in our compound.
Forgetting the outside wetness, it's been raining inside our house for weeks, given all the farewells. I’m at a loss as to how to console my tender-hearted 7-year-old, as her bestie is leaving and she’s upset she may ‘neber eber eber see her again.’
The situation isn’t alleviated by what seems to be a clash of civilisations type thing happening. It appears that once a family finds out they are leaving to a particular destination, they suddenly start to take on the culture, habits or characteristics of that place, whether or not its their homeland. Yes, I get it, it's part of survival and adaptation, and most of all, preparing your kids for next steps. But it's also rather disorienting for those of us that stay and witness this sudden metamorphosis.
“Stop becoming more Dutch/German/Swedish/Japanese/Indian! I want to yell inappropriately. “Stay international!”
In my conflicted emotions of being happy for their next adventures, yet sad they are leaving, I also say awkward things like “Whadya mean come over for stroopwafe? We used to have dumplings!” or Why should I go to Finland to see you in a sauna when I can just see you in a sauna here?’ and “Stop speaking xyz to the kids! I don’t understand a word!” And then, their teenager stares at me like I was even part of the conversation which I wasn’t. Awkward.
So now I contain my grief in a more appropriate way, like going to the gym. As it turns out, the gym is a great vantage point to check out the newbies to Shanghai. They look terrified and confused, but so am I. What’s a girl or a mommy to do to avoid having our hearts broken again and again? Do I introduce myself like the ones who are now leaving now did to me a year ago? I ended up loving them and their kids to pieces! Or do I first ask for their contracts and what their thoughts are on the extension clause before I make friends and let my daughter play with theirs?
I think I’ll just have to engineer our own Next-It, which is simply rolling with whatever comes by way of friendships. Coming or going, I will have to tell my daughter (probably in Dutch, as she has picked it up from her friend that is moving there soon) that this is simply part of life here, and it will only build her resilience. On the upside, she will have a whole bunch of people to visit in various places! As for me, I think I will hit the gym and meet the newbies. I will need about a year in there anyway, before I or anybody else is ready to see me visit a Finnish sauna. After that, like Brexit, there will be no turning back.
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[Image Via PixGood]