It was a year ago now, when we were packing up our life in Manila, embracing in tearful goodbyes and embarking on a new path. On our departure day, our home was still full of our dear Filipino friends who had become our family over the span of six years. With mere hours to our flight to Vancouver, we were gathering up our last items, giving away plenty of our belongings and cleaning up a home we had loved.
With about 40 people gathered in our house that day, and our four young kids running around with heightened emotions and excitement, we all felt the chaos of the day and the looming final goodbyes. I remember standing at the top of the stairs, looking at the dear people circling around the children, and feeling the overwhelming sense of the grave change ahead and the urge to hold my family close.
Somewhat spontaneously, I told my husband and everyone else in our house that day, that our family needed a moment alone. We brought the kids into our emptied-out bedroom for a quiet moment together. We sat on the floor in a circle, held hands, breathed slowly and acknowledged the big emotions this day held.
We prayed together and thanked God for the beautiful journey the Philippines had given us, and asked God to lead us as we said goodbye to our loved ones and stepped into a new life in Canada. We held each kid tight, tears streaming, and reminded them that we are together as a family and, wherever we live, this group of six is home.
In our year of transition, I have often thought of that special moment and the immensely important closeness of our family unit. We are an extroverted pastoral family, with doors always open to friends and family. And we love that! But we also covet the closeness of our unit and are sure to prioritize time together.
My husband has a colour-coded calendar with ample time stamped out for family. While making new plans, the yellow family blocks keep him from overbooking his week and ensure that we have quality time together. It’s these disciplines that keep us rooted together and remind us to keep our schedules clear in order to connect as a family unit.
Our kids have transitioned well since our move from Manila. I believe kids can move healthily through big changes in life if they are deeply attached to their family. We hold our kids close, even now, without any looming transition ahead.
The big move we had brought us even closer together and we continue to nourish that as parents, ensuring that they are safe and secure in our care. In the book Hold on to Your Kids, Gabor Maté and Gordon Neufeld write, “For a child well attached to us, we are her home base from which to venture into the world, her retreat to fall back to, her fountainhead of inspiration. All the parenting skills in the world cannot compensate for a lack of attachment relationship.”
When we prepared for our move back to Canada, we often talked about the places and people we would miss, and how hard that was going to be. But then we would also ask the kids whom we won’t miss and they would excitedly name each member of our family. We were sticking together and holding each other close, no matter what big changes lay ahead, and the comfort and confidence of that promise could see us through anything.
Christina Bartel Barkman, with her four little ones and her pastor husband, seeks to live out Jesus’ creative and loving “third way” options.