A client contacted me this week saying they are considering moving back to Ireland but wonder whether they would deny their children opportunities.
It struck a chord. Not because I remember thinking about this when we moved back. But I feared – and felt a pang of guilt – that maybe we had not considered it sufficiently.
We have a little daily ritual at the dinner table where, before we eat, we sound a little Tibetan bowl and close our eyes and hold hands. It brings us together again after a busy day.
Afterwards, I might ask the children to tell us something they liked about the day and, if they wish, anything they didn’t. Occasionally, it leads to a conversation about our old lives in Australia. Our children were eight, six and three years old respectively when we moved back. The three-year-old remembers nothing. At least in his mind – I’m convinced his body retains the memory of the ocean embedded in his early years.
The two older ones retain fleeting glimpses of Australia.
But the main thing is this. Nobody is traumatised. Nobody feels denied.
I think we dodged a bullet.
But I still want to examine the question more closely.
Did we deny our children opportunities?
Well, I had to ask. Our children say ‘no’, my wife says ‘no’. It is emphatic. It might be cognitive bias to justify our decision after the fact – but I’ll take it.
To explore the question, I want to understand it more. What do we mean by opportunity?
The dictionary definition is a time or set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.
I think we can create our own.
I understand the term ‘opportunity’ as the freedom to choose the life (style) that we want. I think Ireland offers choices that some countries cannot and vice versa. The life we need depends on our stage of life.
I am speculating that the opportunity most parents worry about denying is the outdoor life and freedom they see. Then, as children grow older, parents might envisage freedom to choose a career that might be broader in a country bigger than Ireland.
But I truly believe that denial of opportunities – at least those we luckily get to seek in the first world – is limited only by our mindset and attitude.
Want to have an outdoor lifestyle in Ireland? Easy. Raingear, grit, maybe a campervan. Then do it.
Want to belong to a sporting community? Simples. Join the scouts. Or wait for the GAA to hoover you all up anyway.
Want to have a great career choice? The Irish education system is well-respected and prepares a fertile ground for children to flourish.
Want the freedom to travel? Ireland is on Europe’s doorstep. And later, if your children want to, Australia is there. They will have the talent, the work ethic and the Irish factor when they get there.
I suspect there may be another thing going on – projection. When we parents feel we have more freedom – to be ourselves and to take chances as nobody is watching, we think our children have more opportunities also.
Maybe they do.
But I do not believe, after close examination, that moving country itself denies our children anything. Only we can do that.
Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity.
When I think of opportunity, I consider another factor more important – preparation. For a parent, preparing our children means establishing solid foundations. The fundamentals they need – love, security, an open heart, an adventurous mindset and an attitude of optimism and positive realism.
After all, what the hell made you so awesome?