17 Years…In the Blink of an Eye

Tomorrow we fly to Manila to put our oldest kid on a plane headed to the States. She will finish her final high school year there, amongst the friends she grew up with, in an environment she is well adapted to. Except for one minor detail, we won’t be there.

Obviously, we always knew this day would come, she would grow up and venture out on her own. It’s a year sooner than we had originally planned, but we are at peace with it. She will be living with family friends, so she has a first taste of independence, while still being under the careful umbrella of supervision. As she grew up, through the frustrations of parenthood, there were times I was counting the days until she moved out (name a parent who hasn’t). All that being said, now that it’s reality, it’s too soon.

I always thought we’d have more time. “My” 17 years of growing up dragged on forever it seems. “Hers” was a blink of an eye. Why is that? Why does time move faster as we get older? I have a hard time wrestling with regrets of what we “didn’t do”, rather than look at how much cool stuff we have packed into the last 17 years. Our family looks like the average American family on the outside. Married, one boy, one girl, pets, pretty basic. But, going deeper, we were never average, and I hope that’s a good thing.

We didn’t have regular, 9 to 5 jobs. We didn’t drive new vehicles, heck, we’ve never owned a minvan. We didn’t live in a McMansion, we didn’t drive from town to town (in a minivan of course) for sports tournaments. We didn’t go into debt to have the newest electronics, and we didn’t spend the weekends at the mall exhausting the credit cards. Sometimes, as weird as it sounds, I feel a bit guilty about all this. What if they just wanted to grow up normal?

Then I remind myself of what we did do. We were home when they left for and returned from school everyday. We avoided going into debt over cars, houses, and gadgets. We didn’t invest in sports, except for hunting, and the parking permits for the local state parks to go hiking and climbing together.  We invested in experiences around the world. And then, 19 months ago, we moved halfway across the planet, away from friends, family, and all the non-average normalcy we knew.

I have concerns that the kids will grow up, look back, and regret that they missed out on living the “average” lifestyle their peers grew up in. I hope that they will look back at the memories they have made, from having Mom and Dad at home for them, hunting with Dad, riding jeepneys, eating ethnic food, playing soccer with local kids in a typhoon reconstruction zone, even shopping at the Western Style malls and smile. I hope our daughter returns to the States not as a foreigner, but as someone returning home with an arsenal of memories and experiences that will make her realize that weird is OK. And, I hope the next 17 years don’t fly by quite so fast.

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