Growing home


There is a notion, to which I subscribe, that there is no going home. More than a definitive place, I believe that home is a function of three key dynamics: time, place, and people. As we move through life, the interplay between those three dynamics during any given snapshot of our life’s timeline provides for a unique fingerprint of what “home” is or was at that time.

Our move was prompted by nothing more than our own desire to invest some of our time, money, and sweat equity into broadening our collective horizons and worldview.

This is why many of us often times look back so fondly at a romanticized view of an era past, perhaps our childhood, but find it impossible to recapture an exact replica of what once was. Yet, those memories and experiences live on indelibly in our hearts and minds, and within future actions and successes – and hopefully those of our children as well.

This concept of an evolving and growing home is something I’ve taken to heart since becoming a parent. Let’s face it, even if you choose to stay in just one spot your whole life, the world around you changes. Those open fields you drive past every day might get developed into a new strip mall, neighbors come and go, and kids grow up, adults grow old.

So there we were, yet another daily grind down the tubes with another just around the bend. Damp, overcast skies and a lackluster ritual: kids to the bus stop, commute to work, conference calls, emails, commute home, drive 2 miles down the road for some fresh bread, various depleted school supplies, and a time-strapped dinner out at Red Robin – or was it Chili’s? Did it matter? The answer sure as hell felt like a resounding “no.”

Whatever happened to those discussions we had about moving away from it all? Not those “what if we were millionaires and could do anything we wanted” questions, but those, “you know, it’s really just a matter of practical choices, and we really can do anything we want to” conversations. I’m referring to the kind of conversations that both contemplate the thought of, and highlight the underlying necessity for, a fundamental change in daily existence.

Often times we mentally sneak out of our everyday view of life, thinking high-level, lofty thoughts about what life is, has been, or could be. All the while, working our way through the same daily existence that somehow falls short of where we meant to be, where the starry-eyed children we once were simply knew we’d end up. It becomes a cyclical repeat – a reminder that life is, in fact, what happens while we’re busy making other plans.

So, um, what about those other plans, then?

When I was about fours years into parenthood, I remember receiving one of the best pieces of advice from another family member: Sometimes you have to find a reason to say yes.” This came from a father with a few years experience on me, and his color commentary revealed it was a lesson he had internalized after seeing his own son speed into adolescence. With each passing year, he mourned the loss of his son’s waning interest in those little things, once taken for granted, amidst the mundane repetition of the daily grind. “Wanna play tag?”, “try to find me!”, “can we color now?”, or perhaps a randomly timed late night idea as you tuck them into bed “let’s bake a cake!”

Since hearing that advice, I’ve borne witness to how true those words are. Perhaps more importantly, I have internalized that as true as that advice is in interacting with our children, it’s equally applicable to every other facet of our lives.

Sometimes you really do have to find a reason to say yes.

With that in mind, I bring us back to the dreary grind. In the name of solidarity, pursuit of financial security, and in some ways, mindlessly letting myself float into the same style and pace I had always known, I found myself, my family, my kids, repeating a history of suburban American life. To be clear, I see nothing inherently bad about this. In fact, there are many wonderful aspects to such a life. But most importantly, my wife and I felt we were missing something – something intangible we wanted not just for us, but for our family. A way to show our children, not merely tell them, that the world has more to offer. A way to show them to never take their own experience as the definitive view of what there actually is to experience.

While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that comfortable, suburban life, I do think there is something wrong with letting complacency get in the way of a larger vision for what our life experiences could entail. As parents, our job is to arm our children with a mindset that will enable future success.

With such lines of thinking in tow, just a few short months ago, we made the executive decision and actually pulled the trigger, moving our family from suburban Chicagoland to the bustling megalopolis of Mexico City.

As an adult with a fair number of home relocations under his belt, I have always found the promise of new things associated with moving to be exciting. In the forefront of my mind, I know kids are resilient beings with very few of the hang-ups so many adults grow to be encumbered by over the years. However, in the back of my mind, I did have questions as to how quickly and how well the kids would acclimate.

See, this particular move was taking us multiple hops away from what my children had come to know as their daily life. On one hand, we were making the jump from quiet suburban to lively urban living. On the other, we were going somewhere where everything is very different as well – the language, the currency, the customs, even the brands of their favorite snacks, clothes, and dish soaps in the kitchen. With a move of such significance, and as parents of 13 and 9 year old boys, my wife and my main goal was to ensure we were able to best prepare our family to embrace a new exciting life adventure. My working theory was that as long as they approached the forthcoming set of changes with a positive and open mindset, and saw embracing change as a good thing, the rest would more or less fall into place.

People frequently ask why on earth we moved to Mexico City – and often assume it had something to do with a job transfer or something to that effect. In fact, our move was prompted by nothing more than our own desire to invest some of our time, money, and sweat equity into broadening our collective horizons and worldview. It was a move for the sake of meaningful change. And, to my wife and I, no matter where home is at any given time, there are attributes we strive to keep constant, believing it will help us gift to our children the home we want to provide them. The home we want them to fondly look back upon in the future, an environment where no matter what’s going on in their lives or the outside world, they have a place they feel safe, accepted, loved, and encouraged.

The homes we build can bestow upon our children life-long benefits. As we witness time passing and our children growing up faster than we’d care to admit, it is important to bear in mind that while home is something that will inevitably evolve over time, the choice is ours. Will the scope and size of the many wonderful things a home can encompass ultimately grow or contract.

Photo credit: LMY