What’s it like to pack up the kids and move to another country? A mom living in Israel reflects on staying connected to her family half a world away in Toronto.
Ever since I married my husband, we have traveled at least once if not twice a year between Israel and North America visiting my husband’s family. Then, our home base was in New York where we were working hard, establishing our careers and enjoying young married life. Later it was from my hometown, Toronto, Canada. But the visiting was always to Israel. Israel was the place we visited and Toronto was home.
Somehow, in September 2008 I found myself boarding a plane, with my husband, two children and a dog. Our house sold, our possessions packed with tetris-like precision into a moving container; we were moving to Israel. It was a move I did not expect. It was a move that hadn’t ever really been part of my vision of my future, but it was happening.
The situation was initially meant to be a temporary—two years at most. As such, after my initial shock and hesitation, we looked at it as a great opportunity for our kids to improve their Hebrew and build lasting relationships with their Israeli family. But one thing led to another and six years later we find ourselves still here, the vision of returning home still in our minds.
I have always been a homebody. My favourite place to be is at home, with my family. I am most at peace and feel most whole surrounded by those that I love and that love me. Those words refer to my mother and siblings and extended family as much as they refer to my husband and children. They are all “home” to me. What do you do when those that make up your “home” live an ocean away from you? How do you build and maintain the relationships with the family left behind?
Growing up, my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins were a very significant part of my life. They still are. How could I help my children develop and value those relationships from such a distance? How could I ensure that they develop and identify with their Canadian roots? These are issues very important to my husband and I, and we try very hard to make sure that those relationships are nurtured. We speak in English in our home, ensuring that the kids have a common language with their Canadian family.
My mother visits at least once a year, spending a few weeks with us, living with us, taking the kids to school, making them lunch, sharing everyday regular activities. We visit Toronto twice a year, spending holidays and summers with family. We even send the kids to camp there for a few weeks in the summer to give them a true Canadian childhood experience. We Skype with family members as much as we can but the time difference often makes it difficult to connect. I do my best to try and share the little moments. I take advantage of the convenience of smartphones and social networks and snap photos of the kids doing regular ordinary things and send them to my family, knowing that it’s those little moments that allow you to feel like you really know someone. It’s not always easy and often when I turn on the computer and open up Skype, I’m met with eye-rolls and whining. To be honest I’m sure there has even been a bribe or two of chocolate, but I don’t give in. I can’t.
Life is busy. We both work hard and come nine o’clock when the kids are finally asleep and there’s a chance that I might be able to catch a friend or my sisters-in-law in a free moment, I’m often too exhausted to pick up the phone and home can feel very far away. But there are also those moments when I feel like we are succeeding in keeping it close. One day my little one, who was born here in Israel, cried at night before bed. I knew she was overtired and cranky and just needed to go to sleep. When I asked her what was wrong she said “I miss my Canadian cousins.” I held her close, and dried her tears, but inside I was smiling, and giving myself a high-five.
This is #1000families post number 72. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.