I’m sat opposite my daughter Lola, listening to her talk energetically about the Troglodyte caves we have just visited. She is tanned and happy; her natural beauty quite mesmerising as she smiles easily across the table.
I’m taken back to just a few months ago and a conversation I had with Chris in our living room. I was having doubts about our trip and whether we were doing the right thing by our daughter.
Lola has always been quiet, unassuming, shy and sensitive. A true introvert by nature – she is often misunderstood; which makes for very protective parents.
At home in the UK we worked hard to meet her needs, appreciate her little oddities and provide a safe, comfortable environment where she could retreat, reflect, be alone and play uninhibited away from judgemental eyes. Her ‘little Canadian cabin bedroom’ was created by us to appease her need for a safe sanctuary, where she could surround herself with her furry animals, draw and escape human contact.
I worried that the small confines of our motorhome would steal her need for solitude; the absence of her collection of dogs would deny her, her love and passion; the unpredictability of travelling would oppose her need for security and routine – and above all, that our decision would make her deeply unhappy. Due to our own life events, Lola has never really known stability – I desperately hoped that this last change would not be the one that made her resent us.
It’s funny how I thought, as her mother, I knew Lola better than anyone. It turns out, I didn’t know much at all. For in a new environment, the daughter I thought I knew, doesn’t exist.
Her love of solitude, peace and safety was simply a product of the environment we created. In our attempt to embrace her quiet introvert character, we inadvertently over-compensated and empowered her to withdraw from actively participating in life.
This past month I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know my daughter. She really is a delight. I have learnt that she is intrepid, adventurous, brave, witty, daring and insightful. She likes oyster sauce, egg fried rice and spicy meats. She is at one with Mother Nature but prefers her at her worst. She loves nothing more than to swim in the rain or walk in a thunderstorm. She rarely feels the cold. Cycling downhill and jumping huge waves makes her feel free. She wants to try being a naturist, visit Mexico, own a Burmese Mountain Dog and call her son Atticus.
Through conversations, I learnt that my daughter takes a ‘series of photographs’ in her mind when she sees something wonderful – she then recalls the photographs and draws them in precise detail. This has inspired her to want to be a photographer. And it transpires from the photo’s she has taken on this journey, that she has quite a gift for seeing beauty in the ordinary.
Of all of us, it is Lola who has embraced this adventure the most. Her creativity is inspired by our forever-changing surroundings – Nothing passes her by. Her eyes are always scanning. Her ears are always listening. Her curious mind is always thinking. Her vivid imagination adds colour to the history, geography and languages of the places we see and the people we meet. Everything we have experienced is etched into her memory, and she can recall it in a second with remarkable accuracy and clarity.
I wonder if we returned now, whether she would slip back into her old routine; return to her bedroom, her shy and nervous ways….but something tells me that she has already changed.
Wanderlusts say that travelling enters your bloodstream and once contaminated, you will never be the same again…
The magnitude of what we have done for (or to) our children has not been lost on Chris and I. We know our decision to travel really has the potential to change the course of our children’s lives….and may be even their children’s lives.
We just hope it is for the better.
We are so thankful that we were given the chance to review the environment we created for our daughter; because on reflection our protectiveness was actually stifling quite the Explorer.
Her life could have been very different if it continued to revolve around a bedroom, toys, electronics and the safety-net of her family.
Now she can see that the world really is her oyster. And the best part – She is embracing it with open arms!
We gave our daughter wings…and she soars liked a bird.