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On Moving With My Kids to the Other Side of the World

One month ago we picked up and left Los Angeles, a place we’d called home for over 10 years, and moved across the world to Hong Kong where my husband has been working away from us for the past year. We’d been doing a long distance thing for far too long, so the idea of having us all together was always the light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how much we wanted to stay in L.A. or how much we’d miss our families in the U.S., and no matter how we really felt about our new surroundings in the end.

The whole process was fairly hasty. From the moment we decided to make the move to touchdown in Hong Kong, it all happened within the space of three months. People learning about our move would always say, “Wow-so you’re just picking up and leaving?”

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No. Picking up and leaving sounds like we picked up a tidily packed suitcase in one hand and an umbrella in the other, with a smile on our faces and with neatly pressed clothes, and jumped onto the plane with a Colbie Caillat song playing merrily in the background as we waved goodbye from the window seat. Not so much.

It was more like we scrambled to condense 10 years of life collections, which turned out to be mostly crap we didn’t need, into 20 4x3 boxes and whatever we could take with us as checked luggage. This process consisted of hastily throwing things in boxes to haul on a road trip to my parents’ place, then putting the things that were too big to store on Craigslist (and taking way too little for the items just to get rid of them), and then just giving away insane amounts of stuff that we could have sold or stored had we been more organized and had we gotten our shit more together.

But somewhere above Japan ... the reality of our move set in. I pulled the blanket up around my face and started to cry.

And then it was a race to the airport in two cars at 11 p.m. and a crying, hungry toddler that we were feeding Sun Chips to at the check-in counter because we didn’t have time to grab a proper meal before the flight. We ran half a mile (I swear) through the terminal to our gate only to find that we forgot to take the diapers out of the luggage, so we ran (again) from airport store to airport store to find diapers that ended up being two sizes too small. Then we lumbered onto the very BACK of the plane. So no, no Colbie Caillat song. More like the Circus song. Or any song by Rob Zombie.

We made it on the flight though, and it seemed to be going surprisingly smooth. No bloody noses, no overturned trays, no near fist fights and fan kicks exchanged between the flight attendants and me, all of which happened on the last 14-hour flight we took as a family.

But somewhere above Japan, as I sat with a blanket pulled up around me, staring at the airplane graphic hovering over Osaka on the screen, while the whizzz of the airplane drowning out all noises but the muffled chit chat of the flight attendants from the bay behind me, it all hit me. The reality of our move set in.

I pulled the blanket up around my face and started to cry. There wasn’t one emotion pushing through me. It was like a flash flood of emotion crashing through my body and dislodging old fixtures of emotion along the way. All at once, I felt sad, anxious, angry, happy, scared and manically excited. All the emotions, along with the exhaustion, crashed together into tears. And it felt good to face the moment. For the next 10 minutes, I just let the tears flow.

Motherhood is often about rising to challenges, stretching yourself and overcoming your own fears to instill confidence in your children.

I pulled the blanket away from my face, wiped my sweaty, tear-ridden face with the palms of my hands, and looked over at my family of sleeping bears. My 2-year-old lay sideways, legs over one armrest, her head partially on my thigh, out cold. My husband looked like a dental patient under heavy anesthesia, mouth wide open and drooling. And my 12-year-old son lay forward with his head and arms on the tray table, hoodie up, headphones on. And I had one of those insanely uplifting, prickly-skinned, clear-headed moments that just screams for a Coldplay song to accompany it. It was simply a moment of pure gratitude.

For the past three months, I’d been focused on all the preparation, on the worries about how my kids would adjust to living in a new country, about all the living arrangements and logistics, about adjusting to the new culture, about all the goodbyes. And even though I’d spent many years parenting my now 12-year-old son as a single mother, away from any family, the idea of being 16 time zones away from any form of familiar support group was a whole new ballgame, and it had been giving me heavy doses of anxiety.

But as I sat, awake by myself, at hour 11 of that slightly musty smelling flight, I couldn’t think of anything but how much I loved these three people sprawled out next to me and about how much this adventure, living in another country, so far from everything familiar, would be good for us as a family. And on a personal level, this whole journey would be good for me. It would be good for me on the whole, but especially in my role as a mom.

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I couldn’t wait to be my kids’ mother in this new international adventure. I couldn’t wait to see new things along side them, to support them and encourage them as they grow and widen their life perspective in this new country. Sure, moving overseas brings an intimidating learning curve and very unfamiliar territory, but I felt ready (at least in that moment) to take it on.

Because motherhood is often about rising to challenges, stretching yourself and overcoming your own fears to instill confidence in your children. It’s about exploring and defining more of who you are through your journey of guiding and teaching these little humans. And just as the words, “We are going to be JUST FINE!,” giddily jumped out of my mouth, the fasten seatbelt light went on and my daughter woke up, kicking and screaming something in Toddlerese that sounded an awful lot like “Get me off this F***ING airplane.”

Yes, I thought—get us off this F****ing airplane! Because we’re ready for this adventure.

Photographs by Andrea Wada Davies

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