I’ve always told my parents (almost) everything. Throughout my formative years my folks parenting style focused on honesty, so as a teenager while my friends were secretly faking IDs, sneaking into parties and hiding bad school reports, I laid it all on the table. In fact, throughout my teens my father was my free minicab driver and my mum a clothes bank cum pub landlady.Photo by Foundry (Pixabay)
In my thirties little has changed. Having lived in some challenging environments I’d like to think I’ve grown up a bit though. And now as a parent myself I’ve realised that honesty is not always the best policy.
My parents have always supported me. When I won a place on a volunteer programme in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon they were thrilled. After chatting to a beautician in Syria and deciding to shack up with her to extend my stay from days into months, they praised my spontaneity. While my travels empowered me to venture upwards and onwards, randomly and unplanned, alone and last minute, to Africa, Asia and the Middle East, they were proud.
But then I took things too far and I perhaps shared too much of the adventure. Our distance apart and the often exaggerated media reports were salt to their wounds. ‘But muuuuum the demonstrations were, like, in a totally different place and if you think they were violent you should have seen this guy at this party last week…’
I thought they were amused.In fact they were scared.
It turns out that my parents often slept badly as a result of my global frolicking. Today as a parent I can only begin to imagine their distress, and it shames me.
Expat life is not about regrets however. The most challenging situations have made me grow up (a little) and realise how lucky I am (very), and how naive I was (immensely).
Shortcuts through notoriously dangerous parks in the middle of the night, buying second hand goods from what turned out to be a knife collecting far right skin head (and returning the said goods when I decided I didn’t like the colour), getting lost after dark in the mountains in inappropriate footwear and falling badly (French Soles, gorgeous but what was I thinking?!), a customs official who decided to take me into a cell for ‘a little play’, the muggings standard to any foreign Snow White blonde.
With parents, a problem shared is not always a problem halved. If any crisis strikes, no matter how far away, I’ve learnt to reassure them that I’m OK. For the rest, for those times that I think I’ve been brave where in fact I’ve been damn lucky or damn stupid, I’ve realised it’s best to keep shtum.
So if you’re an expat, please spare a thought for your folks. Take my advice: Mum’s the word.