I am sitting in a Virgin train on my way to Edinburgh as I am typing this. A couple of friends have asked, whatever for?
I told them for reasons of love and gratitude.
This trip is for my daughter. My eldest daughter, my first teacher in my journey as a mother.
Let me explain.
The hubby and I have been talking about making a trip up to Scotland for the longest time. I have never been there despite 4.5 years living in England before. We have been planning on a family trip this October half term and talking about spending a good 5 days there.
Unfortunately, the other half has a major project to finish at work and didn’t feel comfortable to go away at this junction in his calendar. We decided to put the money towards a longer Christmas break back in Denmark as there is only his mum left to spend time with.
Unfortunately for me, this decision to not go to Edinburgh has been plaguing me since my eldest turned 15 on the 10th October. As I said earlier, it would have been for her that I wanted to go up North.
On her birthday, some things her new close friends/school mates said to me, reinforced my idea to take her up north. You see, up in Edinburgh, lies her reason for being excited to visit. She’s been dreaming of this trip for years. And as a mum who loves her daughter very much, I don’t like saying no to something as powerful as this reason.
When she was a new girl in the International School of the Hague, she was naturally her quiet and amicable self. The bookworm that she is, she took some time to get close to her new friends. In that group of international children, a Scottish girl born and raised in New York became her ‘other half’. They spent the whole school day together.
Weekends became normal that they would take turns to have a sleepover. This other girl, V, became like my other eldest daughter. She learnt to eat seafood in my house and other ‘weird and wonderful’ food items her parents couldn’t convince her to try. (our home has been like a rehabilitation for our kids’ friends who have trouble eating and got it solved when I cooked for and fed them!)
For 4 years their friendship flourished and turned into a great partnership at school too. They helped each other with school work where necessary (V had a slight learning difficulty). And for me, I owed a debt of gratitude to V’s father who became my best dad-buddy a couple of months after I arrived.
No.2 daughter, Amelia, who was only just 1.5 years old at that time, kept getting tonsillitis. Every month, I had a little girl who had fever for 2 weeks, reaching 40/41C at one point. She barely could breastfeed, let alone eat any food. It became really difficult for me to bundle her up in winter to leave home with her at 3pm come school pick up time. Thankfully dad-buddy C came to my rescue. Almost every day that Amelia was ill, he would dutifully pick Adeena up for me and dropped her off to our home. Some days he would keep her at their home and the husband would pick her up at the end of his work day. This went on for about a year before Amelia finally got that all important operation needed. In all these time, I owed so much to C and his wife J for helping to babysit Adeena and when I needed help. Such is life as an expat. Without family around, your fellow expat friends become a much needed form of support.
Anyway, when we left The Hague for Basel, Switzerland, it was a difficult time for Adeena. It was understandable that she would be upset to leave all that she knew for the 3rd time in her short life. Leaving behind V was very tough for her. In fact both girls found it hard to leave their friends behind. Even ‘little’ Amelia, who was only 5 at that time, insisted on Skype sessions regularly with her old best friend in nursery.
By the time we left The Hague, V’s mum was going through treatment for colon cancer. We were praying hard for her to get into remission, to a safe place. We eventually found out that the whole family had left The Hague to move back to Scotland for family support. At the same time, our whole A K family moved to tropical Malaysia in the summer of 2012.
The girls kept in touch but not as often as they used to. I guess the 8 hour time difference didn’t help and both girls had new schools and a new social circle to form. Despite all this, I have always been the kind of mum that reminds my children to never drop old friends because they have new. No matter the distance, we have to always make an effort to keep in touch to show our love.
By this time, Adeena hasn’t spoken or emailed V in a while. One day, she told us excitedly that she is arranging a Skype session with V. After the chat, we heard her sobbing in the room. We gave her space to deal with whatever it was we thought they were dealing with only to have her burst out of her room crying out, “Mummy, J has passed away from her cancer!”
We hugged her, both husband and I, and we all cried together as a family. Adeena cried intermittently for the next few days and understandably was a little down. I had a feeling she was not only sad to hear her best friend’s mummy had passed away but also that she couldn’t be there at a time when a good friend was needed the most.
Moving back to the UK last year meant the possibility of them catching up again was real. Though this time Adeena confided that she was a little shy to pursue it as enthusiastically as before. She reckoned that both of them might have moved on and it might be weird to meet up as awkward teens. I reminded her again that V and her shared many special milestones together and no matter how far apart in miles they may have been, the memories will always stay. I pushed her to keep the line of communication going. In time she got excited again to meet V the more they chatted (this time no 8 hour time hindrance). ,
As I mentioned earlier, despite agreeing that it wasn’t time to travel to Scotland as a family, conversations with 2 different new school friends during Adeena’s birthday party reminded me that my daughter is an amazing friend and deserves to be gifted for her friendship values.
An immigrant daughter of a Somalian confided in me that before Adeena moved to this new high school, she was getting uninspired with school. She was beginning to fail and decided that she couldn’t be bothered to try harder. She got into the ‘wrong crowd’ despite her strict Islamic upbringing and her mother’s wish to see her elevate themselves.
When Adeena came to the new school, everyone was intrigued by her. She had the ‘weird’ quasi American accent and was already used to the school work level that they were doing. Adeena apparently took the time to inspire this girl to push on and improve her grades. She helped this girl with her homework and pushed her harder than the teachers did.
“Auntie, if it wasn’t for Adeena, I wouldn’t be doing triple Science today. I went from a mediocre student to an excelling student in the year I knew her. I love her and I credit my improvement to her.”
(Yes, I am doing the typical Asian/African thing and allowing her friends to call me auntie.)
Another mixed Polish/American girl confided in me during their sleepover about herself. She came from a single parent family after dad left them when she was a toddler. She was a really tall and naturally big girl and have felt a little left out sometimes. My tiny and petite daughter befriended her anyhow and made her feel comfortable in her skin. And just like the Somalian girl, Adeena has also been encouraging her to keep up with her school work and pursue her dreams if that meant she could help her single mum in the near future.
Both girls were in awe of how relaxed our household is and how we could relate to our teenage daughter. They were inspired by her and in turn I was inspired by their frank conversations with me. I knew I had a special daughter who values her friends wherever they came from and whatever situation they were in.
I spoke to the husband again and relayed these conversations to him. I reminded him as travelling nomads, our family is not just the ones we were born into but the ones we ‘picked up’ along the way. And for 4 years, V was her best friend and her sister and became like my other daughter. We need to help her maintain that love she had.
And truth be told, I miss my dad-buddy very much. He was my confidante for years and have helped me perform my duty as a mother of 2 while juggling work and the schedules of school and life. I feel sad that I wasn’t there when his beloved wife J, my friend too, passed on 3 years ago. I too needed to show my love and more importantly, my gratitude.
So it was decided early this week, my eldest deserved this belated birthday present to travel up to Edinburgh. Together with her little brother and myself, we will not only discover Edinburgh’s beauty, we will discover love and show gratitude.
2 things I can never extol enough off. 2 things that keep the world going. 2 good reasons to travel all the way up North…
How far would you travel for these reasons? Have you done it? Would love to hear your inspiring story. Share it with me here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org