Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Roots and wings:

From South Wales to New South Wales, Jen discovers that roots and wings means your home is with you always.
By Jen Dobbie
Date: April 13 2013
Editor Rating:

US journalist and author, Hodding Carter, wrote that the two most important things to give your children are roots and wings.

As a daughter, I’m lucky to have parents who are doing exactly that - however much it hurts them. But as a mother, I realise that my daughter’s path through life may take her many thousands of miles from my own – in the same way mine has from my mum.

So I’m taking her back to the UK for an extended trip this year. It’ll be a long time away from my husband, which is something I’m dreading. But it will also be a chance for her to meet the rest of her family, and spend some proper time with my parents, my sister and the people I grew up with.

By virtue of my nationality (British) and her place of birth (Sydney) my daughter can choose to be either Australian or British; or both. So I’m wondering: when trying to give your child both roots and wings, will their birthplace define who they are?

In a recent conversation, a good friend said: “it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in Australia, you’ll never be Aussie.” 

Maybe I should have been offended. I wasn’t, for a couple of reasons: the first that the person who said it is a good friend. They’re well educated, kind, open hearted and minded, and thoughtful. Their comment wasn’t made in anger, it was simply an observation. The second reason it didn’t make me cross was that it made me think, instead.  Do I want to be Aussie?

In my current state of mind, it seemed to imply that those of us who weren’t born here desire two things: 1) to leave the land of our birth because it is in some way lacking, or inferior to Australia and 2) to become an Aussie. I say Aussie because exactly what it means to be Aussie is of course subjective.

If you ask me where I call home, my answer will depend on who you are, and what the situation is. When I’m staying with extended family down the South Coast, if one of their friends asks, I say Sydney. As they have the assumed knowledge that I am part of a family of British/Italian Australians, they will know that I didn’t start out in life in Australia – but they tend to mean ‘where have you come from for this trip, not ‘where were you born?’  By the same token, if I’m at work, I take a lot of briefs over the phone, so my accent (still undeniably English) gives me away. In that case, I’d say Southern England. 

But if you were to ask me where my heart is?  Well, that’s a tougher call.

I came to Australia for the first time in 2000, to celebrate the landmark birthday of a beloved uncle. I fell madly in love with my extended family, their way of life; outlook, food, everything. I was overwhelmed, then besotted by their noisy and intellectual conversations around the dinner table, thanks to my very grounded, patient aunt and hilarious, opinionated cousins. I adored the scenery of the far south coast - but I didn’t fall for Sydney. It was too big, brash, and busy for my 21-year-old brain to take in on my own. And I didn’t really have the chance to explore any more of Australia than that in my month here.

Back in the northern hemisphere, some 18 months later and after only six months together, my boyfriend and I decided to travel around Australia for a year. He’d always wanted to go, but never managed it. I was excited to see my extended family again, and get to see more of the beautiful country I’d had only glimpses of. It’s true to say that neither of us were anchored firmly by sensational jobs; but we did have very strong family and friend relationships; opportunities for employment, and a love for our childhood homes and culture - so there was plenty to come back to. My long-term dream was to move back to South Wales where I had gone to university, and build a life there.

Nine months into the trip, my boyfriend and I had called it quits. Twice. Once in Hong Kong (three days in) and then again in Canberra, several months later. So I was free to fall in love again.

And I did. Head over heels, heart racing, pulse quickening, stomach churning, butterfly inducing, and all consuming love. With Sydney.

I’d never felt anything as strong as the sensation I had walking over the Harbour Bridge and looking at the breathtaking scenery. I loved my job, my friends, the weather, the optimism, the fun, the brashness, the busy-ness, the business - all of it. So when the company I worked for offered me sponsorship, I didn’t hesitate for a second. I jumped into a new life with both feet.

And here I still am, over a decade later. Despite falling in love with a city, a man, and a baby; despite having Australian permanent residency for seven years, citizenship on the horizon, my marriage, the birth of my daughter, a lovely family and incredible friends, even despite going for Australia in The Ashes … I’m still not true blue.

But the disconcerting thing is this: I’ve been gone from the UK for so long now that I might not be truly British any more either, not in the sense that I easily understand cultural references, or even the language. I looked back on a conversation with my husband yesterday and realised I’d said gladwrap, eggplant, and yoghurt. I’d asked him how the D’s went (meaning Melbourne Football Club in he AFL), described a colleague as ‘ropeable’ - and all this while putting clean covers on the doona.

It seems that my language, cultural references and relatives are split fairly evenly. I was brought up in the UK, and I loved it with all my pasty, well spoken, pint drinking, thank you letter sending heart. And I’ve grown up and built my own family here in Australia, which I also love with all my beach dwelling, wine drinking, blue- sky worshipping heart.

What that makes me, and in turn what it makes my daughter, are yet to be determined. I’m not someone who thinks of myself as a ‘citizen of the world’ but I don’t think that where I was born defines me, either. I’ve probably felt most at home in South Wales … and then in New South Wales; neither of which are my place of birth. And funnily enough, the friend who made the comment that sparked the column is, with his wife, one of the reasons I do feel so at home here.

I hope we can give our daughter the roots she needs to believe in herself; to be aware that wherever she goes and whatever she does, we will love her with all our hearts. Because in doing that, we will help to make her at home within herself. And that will surely give her the wings she’ll need to achieve anything.

And in case you’re wondering what happened to the boyfriend? It turns out that travelling overseas with someone you don’t know very well is quite a hard path to tread. But it seems it just isn’t possible to fall out of love with him either. The Canberra break up was our longest, at about 3 minutes. He’s now my husband. But that’s a story for another column.

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Fiona says: 2013 04 15

I loved this writing especially the honesty and warmth of the personal story of love and change.
It is a valuable study of what it means to call somewhere home particularly for those many many Australians who are born obevseas.

I certainly hope the author’s Aussie friends read this. It may help them understand more of the journey of those who come to live in our wonderful country.

gina louis says: 2013 04 16

Well, here is the cry of the expatriate, never sure where her heart is. Well written, emotional, very personal.  Many people will identify with the sentiments whether male or female of the wrench of the heart, the uncertainty of one’s real place in the world.  How good to be going back home to find your other parts. Tell you daughter how great it is to have two homes.  Lucky you, embrace the differences,  Excellent!!

Jess W says: 2013 04 15

Beautiful article Jen.

Lucy says: 2013 04 15

I agree wholeheartedly with Fiona.

Having had an international education and also moved all over the UK myself, first for school and then for work, I enjoyed reading this. I too have a very flexible approach to where I call home these days, and I have a truly global network of close friends, many of whom have lived all over the world. I daresay I would also love to live in Australia someday, for all the same reasons as you.

Many people regard this with a little bit of suspicion or worse, but I think like you do that it is part of being a citizen of the world. The more I have found out about my lineage from older relatives and a wider extended family, the more I realise I come from a long line of migrants, so it doesn’t surprise me that I see life this way and nor does it bother me now, in fact I embrace it. It is more colourful and fun! It did upset me when I was younger because it seemed to be at odds with my love of stability and needing to belong. (Bascially, ‘Roots’ vs ‘Wings’)These days I think that belonging is something that comes from within and stability is only ever fleeting anyway, so why not enjoy the flexibility that having a truly global outlook brings!

I’m sure your daughter will benefit from having much broader horizons than many!

Garry says: 2013 04 15

A well written and thought provoking piece.
The best things we can do for our kids is provide them with firm foundations to keep them grounded and clear skies to show them that there are no limits to what they can achieve.
The technology we are currently surrounded by means that to a large extent we can surround ourselves with the familiar, comforting things from our youth and keep them with us wherever we are and whatever we are doing… I can only see this getting better as my two kids grow up.

Jackie says: 2015 10 25

Thanks clash of clans gemas gratis  |  boom beach hack apk

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