Sunday, July 3, 2016

Independence Day

Today, it is nearly 4th of July in the USA, and my family is swimming in our warm 85 f swimming pool, in our sweet home, on a nice sized private lot in my hometown, prepping for having my mom and grandma over for 4th of July, and A MOVE BACK TO SWEDEN.

We moved to Sweden 7/22/2008 and left on 9/11/2012. The last weeks got crazy, I ended up in the ICU for a group A strep infection on my leg, cut the road trip to Norway out of the plan and went straight home to Florida. I remember the Florida heat those first few days.... Sending kids out to play, and only being able to stand out there a few minutes before being soaked in sweat, having to run back in to the cool air conditioned air to escape the humidity and the heat. We stayed a week at my parents, then got a beach condo, and enjoyed some Florida pool and warm gulf water while we commenced a search for a job and a house.

Our SwedeLife house sold, and we found we were in competition with investors for the residential properties in our little Florida town. Houses were being snatched up before making it to market, and we ended up renting next to some old friends. We thought that would be great, but soon learned families with school age kids are busy-busy-busy, and even being next door the children seldom had time to play. They were out at 8:30, back at 4:45, and had 15 minutes on the street before the 7 year old had to spend an hour on homework, then off to bed..... the house had problems that made us sick. We ended up moving into five places before we were able to find a home, and even then, we ended up with a house with major undisclosed problems.

Returning was not what we hoped. Relationships had shifted while we were gone, baby friends had grown to busy school aged friends, moms once at home and ready to get together had gone back to other pursuits. The ready made circle of friends I expected to support me was no longer intact. It took sometime before I realized we needed to forge new relationships, and create a whole new life. It seems dumb, now, looking back that it took me so long to know there is no 'going home', but you are always making a new path.

No one told me it is easier to be a stranger in a strange land, than a stranger in your own country.

Readjusting to my life in my "home" was awkward, and painful.  I expected to fall into a comfortable, familiar place, into the loving arms of family and friends that were excited to have us back. But in reality the whole thing was kind of like this:

Two years after we returned,  I found a blog that explained repatriation really well. When you leave your country of origin, it is like you leave a country of circles. You,  a circle, go to a new country, where everyone is a square. You adapt and change under the influence of the squares, you stretch and your edges become different. You return back to circle country, and are no longer a circle. You are a little bit circle, a little bit square- a hybrid new shape, a triangle. What I know now I did not know then, was by leaving my country, I would never quite fit in either place ever again. It is interesting to realize the people who have become our friends since moving back are mostly people who are in cross cultural relationships or have lived internationally. We instinctively found we are now most at home with other triangles.

A few of us who left Sweden at the same time, from Ireland, Australia, and USA all related very much to that post, that idea, nearly two years after we were back, and thought, yep, that really is how it is. We all saw our lives in the words, and felt like 'well, that would have been helpful to know!!"

I came back just in time though. Part of returning was because of family health concerns, and though we had no way to know it at the time, we made it back in time to spend the last year of my father's life with him. We have been with my mom while she was very sick, grieving, and adjusting to some new medical treatments that now have her doing pretty well.

Kids have done great settling into various programs we patched together: home schooling, home waldorf programs, charter schools, the public school I went to as a kid. Everyone has managed to get what they need. My husband got work in USA, I returned to being a part time self employed midwife while homeschooling.

We have had a hard few years, and a lonely few years, and overall they were easier done here than there. We have finally gotten comfortable in the life we have built upon return.

Then this spring, there was one particular moment when I thought "maybe we should go back to Sweden". I was with the homeschooling group for my 7 year old, my 5 year old also in tow, standing with half a dozen adults one Friday afternoon, watching our kids play on a pile of dirt. And as endearing as my children playing are, I thought, "I used to be able to let my kids play in piles of dirt and I did not have to personally supervise it, when we were in Sweden". After 11 years of parenting, I am feeling like I want to spend some time pursuing things that matter to me, and watching kids play in the dirt is not my current life dream.

My little kids are home schooling in USA because we really prefer the Swedish way: play based, movement rich early education, and academics later. We loved our Swedish Waldorf school for my first daughter. And when we did come back to USA, she fell into the school academics without any difficulty, and was more physically developed than her peers, and was better off from never having been asked to do academic work she was not developmentally ready for. So doing the math, we still have a 5 year old, and we still have two years left before he reaches that age of 7 when we feel we can put him in American school with out damaging him. So it was we started considering what it would be like to move back to Sweden.....

In so many ways, it has been great to spend these difficult years in USA where I could easily make new friends, participate in groups, and enjoy all the USA has to offer. Family. Life with my school aged daughter in English, and my culture has meant I can chaperone field trips, and understand the nuances of life. The abundant craziness of Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, shopping at the Dollar Store for Helium birthday balloons at 9pm, the glory of warm gulf water beaches and warm swimming pools. My mom. Setting up a facebook event for camping, and having a load of families sign up, and join us for a weekend in the woods. But these years were lonely, and full of grief, too. My dad got cancer and after five short months of treatment, died. Our house, now fixed, was bought with a load of undisclosed problems that cost us $50,000 and had us strip it down to the studs, and move in unfinished. If we leave this chapter of life behind us, I will welcome a fresh start.

My husband can work here, there, anywhere. I am a Swedish citizen now, and while I speak basically NO Swedish, I can go to University tuition free and there are a load of  English language Master's programs I am eligible for, and make a career change from 24-7 on-call clincal work to public health work. It has been exhausting to be an on call midwife again, and I am looking at ways to translate my passion for birth into a job in policy, so I can make birth better, but to also sleep at night, and have a regular schedule. I have applied for Master's programs in Sweden. We enrolled the kids in the Waldorf schools in our region. We are patching up the last fix it ups on our Florida home, getting it on the market, and getting ready to have a last holiday with family for 4th of July.

We are crossing fingers all the moving parts will come together so we are back in Sweden for the start of the new school year.

When we left in 2008, we said "let's give it three years and see how we are". We stayed 4 years. When we came back to USA in 2012, we said "Let's see if we can sell the Swedish house, and get a US job, and see if we can spend the stay at home toddler years in USA, where there are so many at home moms, then see how we are." It has been 4 years. Now in 2016, looking at school aged kids, my desire to get back to work and improve my professional prospects, weighing the value of family relationships on each side of the Atlantic, two sides of the family an ocean apart, two cultures we want our kids to know, we are looking to return to our Swede Life.

Master's for me. Swedish language and culture for the kids. Play school for our little guy. Midsommar maypoles with my husband's clan, and the perks and hardships of Swedish life, things we know now we are in for. When we left before, I was starry eyed and unsure what we were heading for. It was 4 years in Sweden with two pregnancies and newborns. Now, it will be school for me, school for kids, and hopefully me finally learning Swedish. Now, I know what it means to be "a triangle", and will adapt more like the child of divorced parents who has to bounce between two households. Rules at mom's are different than the rules at dad's. Instead of comparing the two cultures I live in, I can just accept that USA has wonders and irritations, and Sweden has upsides and downsides, and know they are just different. I can just make the most of either place while there.

We are looking foward to Waldorf schools, forests, lignon berries, midsommar, snow, dark skies and starry nights, and the challenges and discomfort of being outside my first language and culture. I leave my cultural comfort zone and take a bold step, a new path, in pursuit of new set of wonderful adventures. We have a trip to Norway we never got to make, and look forward to traveling around Europe once again. We are thinking, give us three years, we will see how we are....

So this 4th of July/ Independence Day, we are making plans for a Swede Life, once again.

1 comment:

Sandi B. said...

So excited for your family!! I sit here reading this in CHINA, waiting on a baby and contemplating my future, as well. I miss being settled. I totally get the circle, square, triangle analogy. Having lived overseas 4 years myself (and we pretty much moved at the same time, both times!) I have also had a challenging time fitting back in to the norm.
Who knows what my fall may bring ;)
Abundant Blessings, my friend <3