There was a general bustling and excitement in the household. We were going on our first furlough at last! We’d earned it after years of service in the country we were working in. International travel always requires careful pre-planning, and we’d waited anxiously while local authorities processed our permission to leave the country. At last we had papers in hand. It now required a journey of several hours to the nearest airport before we could even get started on the trip home.
Turning our house keys over to trusted friends we made final preparations to leave. Our two girls joined in with an exuberant spirit, helpfully bringing their precious treasures for inclusion in already bulging at the seams suitcases. We were running out of tactful excuses to avoid putting their treasures in those suitcases.
Travelling is hard on young families, and is a constant challenge for parents to find interesting things for little people to do with their time on a journey. Airline supply of games and colouring books eventually runs out, and then there’s nothing to do except sit for hour upon boring hour in restrictive aircraft seats. If travelling has any lustre at the beginning of a journey it soon wears off.
There is something even more alarming about furlough time which little people have to contend with. At the end of that journey to the homeland they’re taken to places quite unfamiliar and for several weeks stay with relatives they barely know. That in spite of frequent reminders they have Grandparents, Uncles and Aunts not to mention photos placed in strategic positions around the home to prompt a daily reminder our children have relatives other than adopted uncles and aunts in their place of residence.
Long suffering children are confused and frequently unhappy at abnormal restrictions placed on movement during a holiday like this and admonitions to present their best face with little or no relief as musical chairs are played with various relatives homes adds to their distress.
How they long to run and jump and make as much noise as they’d normally do in familiar surroundings.
Relatives note this lack of enthusiasm on the part of children during such visits and unfortunately interpret children’s lack of enthusiasm as a personal rejection. Thus the visit is even further complicated and at times unhappy. Fortunately when it’s diplomatically explained most relatives are mature enough to understand and accept the perceived rejection as just another case of juvenile homesickness.
So you can imagine our surprise after several weeks of living in a homeland society where water is safe to drink from the tap, food is safe to eat off the shelf and everything somewhat predictable and orderly to hear children tearfully ask in rare moments of privacy to take them back home! As far as we were concerned we were home!
Home for the children was not the place where things were readily available and things could be consumed safely, or for that matter where their parents had spent their own youth. Home to them was the place where things were familiar and unnatural restrictions removed. We understood what our children were trying to communicate and were sympathetic to their felt need.
We learned a lesson from that experience. Following furloughs was taken at a seaside resort in close proximity to our parents, relatives and friends. Fun on the beach during these holidays fitted nicely with our frequent interaction with relatives and slowly built an eager anticipation when it came time for furloughs.
They soon discovered it was not so bad being away from home after all!
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