There are basically two ways to handle the kids when it comes to big family news. The first is to do ‘the big reveal’ – to keep everything under wraps until the last minute, when things have been finalised, so that they don’t have to deal with any uncertainty or risk of disappointment. The second is to take them along with you every step of the way, telling them your plans, keeping them updated, and sharing any major developments as and when they happen.
We decided to take the second route. We figured that moving down under was a family decision, taken for the long term benefit of the family, so we would discuss it openly and rationally throughout the lengthy process of migrating to Australia.
There were lots of stepping stones along the way from idea to arrival – which I’ll cover in a later post about the visa process itself – but from a family point of view, there were two major milestones on the way to our new life in Canberra.
The first, was the news that our visa application had been approved. Ours came the day after Australia Day in 2013, and we like to think that our visa case officer, buoyed by the weekend’s national celebrations, returned to the office, saw our eagerness to become part of the Australian story, and approved our documentation in a fit of national pride and optimism. At least, that’s how the scene plays out in our minds.
The news was especially timely as it came a few weeks before an already booked trip to check out Canberra, visit friends and take a short holiday. This meant the trip would allow us to validate our newly issued visas without making an extra trip within the 12 month validation window that starts ticking the minute your visa is issued.
Back in rainy Denmark, we received the news with some emotion, a swiftly sourced bottle of Australian wine from the local EuroSpar supermarket, and a conversation with the kids over dinner.
The conversation went something like this:
Me: “Kids. We’ve got some news.”
Big boy: “We’re going to Australia?”
That’s what you get when you talk about something fairly regularly as a family dream.
Me: “Yes. Well. It’s not as easy as that, we have to sell our house first and everything, but we got news today that we’re allowed to go, which was the biggest challenge we needed to overcome.”
Small boy: (In a sing-song voice) “We’re going to Australia, we’re going to Australia, we’re going to Australia. Can I have a pony?”
And that was pretty much it. However, little did we know that it would take us more than a year to sell our house, by which time, the ‘hey kids, we can go’ conversation had largely been forgotten. So we got to tell them both again. This time with a little more caution, because this time, it would mean leaving behind their friends, their school, and the house and country they had spent nearly their whole lives in.
This time, they were less ready:
Me: “Boys. We’ve got some news.”
Me: “Somebody wants to buy our house.”
A moment of silence.
Small boy: “Does that mean we can go to Australia?”
Me: “If everything goes smoothly, yes.”
Small boy: (In the same sing-song voice) “We’re going to Australia, we’re going to Australia, we’re going to Australia. Can I have a pony?”
Big boy: “Best day ever.”
And then they proceeded to do a little dance around the lounge.
Clearly, I don’t know how things will work out in the longer term; whether this is a move we will live to regret, or one that we’ll never look back from. But I do know that there was a moment for our children when news that “We’re going to Disneyland” would have been a poor second to news that we were moving to Australia. And that alone was enough to bring the little pin-pick of a tear to my eye as I watched them dance around.
“We’re going to Australia. We’re going to Australia.”
Yes we are boys. Yes we are.