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Five years ago I wrote this article, which explains how my son Pablo started taking his destiny in his hands. Through all these years there have been moments of happiness, sadness, encounters, disappointments, doubts… Pablo moved again, he left Portland and surprised me by settling down in the country where I grew up, the place of my childhood and memories, Buenos Aires. I believe that after so many changes, Pablo chose the place he feels more familiar. He is now looking for that confidence that goes beyond the certainties we can give him as parents. We keep on accompanying and supporting him as always.

Rupexpat
November 2013

Original article:

Below you can read my account of how Pablo, my son, decided where he would start his college and his “new” life. A story I want to share to deepen the reflection on this difficult stage of our children’s lives: transition to university.

 

When my son Pablo was born, I dreamt that our family life would be a perfect and solid core, which would protect him from the ups and downs of relocations. Indeed that’s how it was, and nothing seemed to threaten the tightly woven links created in the warmth of our family life.

He grew up watching other horizons and exposed to experiences and feelings inevitably linked to temporary life abroad.

Years went by and the feared moment arrived: children grew up and started planning their lives far from their parents: university, life on their own, another city, other friends, different responsibilities.

Pablo is 18 and he has been moving around the world all his life. His father’s work created a nomadic life for him, from Argentina to the States, and through China, Italy and Greece. He grew up watching other horizons and exposed to experiences and feelings inevitably linked to temporary life abroad. Every move opened new windows on the world, and sometimes easily, sometimes with difficulty, he always adapted to his new life, making new friends and making of each home and city his own.

Every departure brought an old sadness to light, recreated  familiar nostalgia, opened sorrows he thought forgotten; every arrival promised new illusions, offered new challenges, stirred the will to know and venture into the new. Every move put him through the same process, the beloved memories helped him control his fear, uncertainty and loneliness of the first period, to start a new cycle.

Being separated by an ocean of thousands of miles felt like abandoning him

School years went by. He attended the last five of high school in Portland (Oregon), where he formed an amazing group of friends and met his first love. Before his penultimate year was over, we were informed that we had to leave the States and move to Greece. My children were very sad, much more that in previous moves. There were periods of silence, reproach, crying, explanations, until they calmed down and in the absence of alternatives they started to accept the idea of having to move again.

Pablo tried to talk us into letting him go to university in Portland, but the idea of leaving him on the west coast of the United States while we settled in Europe didn’t seem feasible to us. Being separated by an ocean of thousands of miles felt like abandoning him; we had always been together, our family had been like a small fortress that protected us from all changes, and we could not accept the idea of living so far away. For the first time Pablo would live alone, far from us, and we wanted to be able to reach him quickly wherever he was. We offered him the alternative to go to London, and so it was…

We went on holiday, but he was sadder and more absent by the day.

After checking various programmes and analyzing the different courses, sometimes sharing our enthusiasm, Pablo decided to apply to several universities in UK. A few months later he got an offer from one of them.

Cronaca di un ritorno annunciatoMonths went by and Pablo started languishing, losing interest… He had always been an excellent student, and now he stopped studying, was late at school, he could not sleep at night and even writing, which was his favorite activity, did not excite him any more. His father, who at that time was already living in Greece, came back to Portland so that together we could help him overcome the depression that had hit him. With patience and much love we helped him get his baccalaureate. Then the moment of departure and farewells arrived: Pablo was strangely calm.

Once in Greece, he was as silent as ever, he rarely smiled, did not want to answer our questions, nor tell us what was going on, and did not accept the counselling we offered him. It was like losing grip on the situation. We went on holiday, but he was sadder and more absent by the day.

And there we left him…at the corner of a London pub, under the rain, waving our hands while the bus left.

After the holiday we started getting ready to go to London and organize his student life there. We thought he would get excited by the city with all of its cultural opportunities, by the courses, the writing workshops, all the clubs on his university campus, new friends coming from all over the world, a new independence and this whole new world that opened up to him. We were also aware that his friends were very important to him, and we promised to let him go to Portland as soon as possible to visit them.

We arrived in London, Pablo got his room on the university campus, chose his courses, we bought the books and all the necessary to make him independent and make him feel he had a sort of “home”, a “refuge”.

And there we left him…at the corner of a London pub, under the rain, waving our hands while the bus left.

That same week Pablo went back to Portland. He gathered the few things he managed to stuff in his suitcase, silently, secretly, as if he feared someone could stop him. He went where he felt his home was, to his friends, his girlfriend, his affective links outside of the family.

I realize how big a mistake it was not to listen to his arguments.

After calling him for two days without an answer, I knew he had gone, I had no doubts, he had launched so many signals in those last months, and we had been so stubborn in not wanting to consider them. The day after, he sent us a long and emotional letter, explaining the reasons of his choice. And now he is there, building his story, showing us that he knows what he wants and most of all defending what is most valuable for him: his love, his friends, his place, what he built in five long years, and that he does not want to give up.

Apart from the initial shock and the confusion caused by his departure, I confess I feel relieved. It’s like only now, seeing my son happy, free from the melancholy of memories, and engaged in his choices, I realize how big a mistake it was not to listen to his arguments.

unconditionally listen to them and support them in their decisions, as they have always supported us.

I know each person, each family and each story is different, but my message to the parents of these kids that follow us all over the world, helping us more than anybody else to lay the fundamental stone in each now home, is this: unconditionally listen to them and support them in their decisions, as they have always supported us. Regardless of the differences of ideas, learn to understand their position.

I know it can be difficult to set aside all we dreamed and planned for them. But let’s bear in mind  that they they’re going to leave us sooner or later to build their own identity (twice: first towards their “search”, their “becoming persons”;  and then towards independent living, studying in other cities, other countries). And after being so close to them, this departure is heartbreaking. They might not be able to clearly give us all the answers we need: maybe they don’t know everything about the path that awaits them, because they are just starting out.

I believe that it is exactly at this time that we have to be wiser and more patient, and accompany them carefully but from a distance, accepting that we don’t know everything about them, and this is fair: it’s how it should be. We cannot enter this dimension: it is theirs alone; it’s the most genuine and intimate part of their being, and it’s the one that contains the unexpected resources they can resort to for the unique creation of their path.

Rupexpat
Athens, Greece
January 2008
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