Deborah Valentine may have just started a new tradition for her 18-year-old daughter: attending FIGT conferences. She muses how FIGT might create a space for our younger family members to engage and interact.
By Deborah Valentine
I had my reasons, but the results surpassed my expectations.
Taking my 18-year-old daughter to FIGT2019 was a plan I hatched in the months before the conference. I felt she could benefit—by seeing, hearing and being with people like me, like her. That the trip was taking place just before her final exams caused some ‘surprise’ from my ex—but with promises to study every now and then, and good grades going into her finals, we went ahead.
My whole life I have been on the move. From the day I was born, to the year I turned 40, I had moved every four years—more or less. My father is Canadian, my mother a Jamaican immigrant to Canada—and I and my two brothers have three different birth countries. This was, and is, my normal.
After my studies I started my own global career, married a Dutch diplomat and had two children in two different countries, and continued my career.
As life would have it, the journey which was to have continued stopped. My (ex)spouse and I separated but I continued to live in his passport (now also my passport) country. The children—then 5 and 3—began their journey in one place, at a local school. A place where they were locals—and yet ….
In recent years I had observed in my daughter some unspoken wrestling with identity; observed what I considered to be feelings of ‘the other’, sometimes not fully understanding her mothers’ identity, and the many layers it has acquired over the years.
Who knows what the spark was that led me to suggest she join me in Bangkok. But, her answer was yes! She knew it would not be a vacation/tourist kind of trip. I would be ‘working’ during the conference, and would ask for her help. And, I wanted her to write about the experience afterwards.
Her reception—by my fellow Board members, interactions and experience with conference attendees, the help and support during the conference—were, truly, an experience to be cherished.
While I had made the suggestion to come—for her sake—it was I who was enriched. By seeing her flourish and by the conversations resulting from presentations heard and experiences lived—not only with me, but with the strangers she met...this mama’s heart could not have been fuller.
And, while I am still waiting for the review of her impressions, I know, in my heart, that she heard and experienced things that perhaps will help her understand herself better, and her mother too.
Many conference attendees expressed surprise, admiration even at my bringing her. I had not expected that but the resulting conversations made us all realise: here we were at a conference talking about ‘families/children/TCKs etc.’ and yet, very few of them were actually present—sharing their own impressions, listening and contributing to the dialogue.
So, if one person’s experience can be a source of inspiration, let me say this: I would encourage those who can to bring their children—young adults—to the conference. They will enlighten, but also be enriched by the experience.
Who knows, maybe there would be room for ‘off-site evening sessions’ for these young bright minds of the future to reflect with and for us on their own perceptions of what we are collectively sharing. I am told, the ‘early birds’ may not be up their alley ;)
Oh, and as a final note: she passed her exams! But I am still waiting for her ‘impressions’ LOL.
Deborah Valentine is a Canadian, born in Germany; her parents are from Canada and Jamaica; she lived in three countries before the age of six, and since then relocated every four years until she ‘hit’ Holland. After 11 relocations, five languages and experiences as ‘child of’, ‘spouse of’, ‘mother of’—not to mention expat professional herself with the UN—she more than understands what it is to live and work in other countries, and is passionate about the tribes she is a member of. Currently she is Executive Director of ACCESS, a not-for-profit volunteer organization in the Netherlands.