My mother recently wrote, “I cannot support what you are doing to the children.” Kobi’s mom won’t stop crying and sending guilt-tripped, concerned messages, including but not limited to, “I’m so upset that you’re not coming home that I can’t sleep at nights.” Fun. My father says we’re inflicting irreparable damage to our offspring and told me the other day, “There is a reason that everyone in the world adheres to socially-accepted norms. You can’t change the rules just because you feel like it.” But here’s the funny thing Dad, I can. And I have and what’s worse, I will continue to do so.
I hate to shake things up and the truth is, I really do hate to shake things up. I usually don’t. I avoid conflict and face-to-face stand-offs like I avoid wet dogs on a hot day. Way back when, whenever people would talk religion, politics, or money, I would leave the room. I always had better things to do with life than stand there, being preached to by highly-opinionated people about things that I really didn’t care about. Eons ago, I stopped watching the news as I wasn’t interested in the negativity that they were pitching. Today, I leave the online discussions, and worse, I pull away from my family, who ask me in that you-are-so-in-the-wrong-child tone, “Why don’t you get a real job, act like a responsible adult, and give your kids the stability they clearly deserve?”
I can’t possibly ignore the white elephant anymore. Come on, he just farted so garishly that we either choke and gently wipe our hankies to our powdered noses or we burst into laughter till the snot comes out and our stomachs hurt. We can go with the ‘Pride and Prejudice choice A,’ but wouldn’t that be as Barbie plastic and fake as pretending that all those in white-picketed-fenced-nine-to-
In the un-conservative way I see life, it is not my life mission to make my child happy, especially at the cost of sacrificing my own life-joy. The way I see things, a happy mom and dad makes happy children and a happy family. Of course, life back home had unreal perks, long-term relationships, and so much that we dearly love and miss. But the truth is, I believe, that so many of us grew up needing those social networks in our class or youth group, not only because it was fun, but because, just maybe because our parents were so emotionally unavailable and that family life was so unhealthy that we had to create a ‘family’ network outside of our homes. Imagine what life might have been like if your parents didn’t have to work, clean, cook, run errands, and chauffeur you all the time? Imagine what a child’s life would be like if they had in-love parents, pursuing their dreams, who were emotionally and physically available to them? Imagine what life would be like for a child if they woke up, unrushed, to cuddling and talking.
While waiting for lunch they play board or card games as they talk with their parents and the day is spent getting dirty and exploring their own wild imagination, not sitting in front of a mind numbing digital screen. And night after night, they would be lulled to sleep under the sound of their father reading A Wrinkle In Time? Imagine what it would be like for a child to be at the same exact hierarchical disadvantage and utter cluelessness as their parents as they hitchhike on the back of banana pick-up trucks throughout Central America, return in the pounding monsoon rain from Angkor Wat Temples, and mime their most basic needs to populations who have rarely seen the elusive White Man? Imagine what that does to a child’s self-growth and self-confidence to experience open-ended world travel with their parents, to share in the most unreal adventures alongside of a wide-eyed, clueless pair of loving adults?
Did anyone ask those kids who attend school for 8 hours a day, have homework for another 3, and are then dragged off to after-school activities if this is the life they wanted? Does anyone every say, “Listen, son, we’re going to work our asses off, be perpetually exhausted, and, oh, Dad will be virtually non-existent so that we can afford this standard of living. We’re going to sacrifice the very fibers of our soul to give this life to you? How does that sound, son? Would that be alright with you?”
No, no one asks Jr. if mom should also have a career, if dad should take the promotion, or if he would rather attend private or public school. No, in the vast majority of cases no one is deliberating with Jr. about the kind of life he wishes to have as a child. And is one life better than another? Is homeschooling better than system schooling? Is city life better than country life? Is a life in a Japanese American school superior to one of a child being moved by his parent’s military career to his newest school-of-the-semester ? For that matter, is there only one right, sane, proper way to raise a child?
I know I’m answering your question with questions and that might annoy me too. It’s just that rather than point a finger here, I would like to question one of the unquestionable pre-accepted norms we’re comparing my alternative life-style choice to. Yes, it is “insane” to travel the world with kids as a way of life. I’ll grant you that, but in that same breath, I think the normal way is even more insane. It’s just an insanity that everyone has bought into; it doesn’t seem so odd anymore that everyone around you is a slave to taxes, rat races, bureaucracies, and keeping up with the Jones.
As we enter year three of non-stop world travel, I must tell you that I have learned so much about the world (most famously in I Know Nothing and 99 Other Things The World Has Taught Me), about blissful, utopic, uninhibited happiness, about my family, and about myself. In terms of parenting, I’ve learned to give my kids poverty for Christmas, perpetual barefooted-ness, and an uncensored world education. I’ve learned that there are endless combinations that can lead to ecstatic joy and that any of those can bond and create a family life that I never knew was possible. Is my life choice ideal in every respect? No, none of them are. They all have their own unique, effervescent glow of ying and yang. As they should. I do hope my life-style choice gives others the guts to examine their own. I do hope my too-honest blogging inspires others to consider this other nomadic option. I do hope my nuclear family can continue our lives as The Nomadic Family until we deem it no longer meets our needs. And, above all, I truly hope our extended families can learn to sleep at nights, open their eyes to the fact that we are happy, and maybe, just maybe, learn to be happy too.
Let’s finger paint! Come on, let’s! You know it’s been a long time since you’ve allowed yourself to get messy. I’d be honored to hear how badly I’ve inspired you or ruffled your features. I’m joyful to bring this discussion on the table and see what mess we can make of it, together.
Why Don’t We Get Real Jobs? Because we are so damn happy.
About the Author
You can find more of Gabi’s unorthodox opinions and world travel adventures at The Nomadic Family.Insanely unorthodox, embarrassingly honest, and on her path towards spiritual awareness, Gabi Klaf blogs about her family’s ups and downs in their now third year of non-stop budget world travel. This family of five has lived with an indigenous tribe in the jungles of Ecuador, hitchhiked throughout the world, danced with drunk Vietnamese at weddings, and are now training for their Fall 2013 Annapurna Circuit trek where a film crew will accompany them for a documentary movie about how The Nomadic Family is redefining modern family life. Gabi writes about the untold sides of family travel life, those moments that take your breath away, adventures and mishaps while globetrotting, and how bits of her soul remain in this small town and off the side of that river. She is a guitar-stumming, energy-healing, ADHD wind-loving scaredy cat. Hugely romantic, tantalizingly sweet, and hysterically funny, Gabi Klaf represents a rare Rubix’s Cube of family world adventure.
This post forms part of the ongoing series: Why Don’t You Get a Real Job?