Jonathan is over at A Life Overseas today, talking about how moving abroad ruined his parenting.
I sat on the floor, weeping.
I was two whole days into living abroad, and I was already losing it.
Those tears portended more, and in our first year overseas, the thing that knocked me down the most, the thing that discouraged and distracted and depressed me the most, was the sense that I was failing at fatherhood.
I loved being a dad. It was a very core part of my identity, and something I really cherished. Moving to Cambodia, I had expected cross-cultural stress. I had expected transition tension and unmet expectations. I had even expected conflict with other missionaries and nationals. But I never thought I’d feel like my identity as a father was being shredded up and burned in the furnace of a cross-cultural move. That was a surprise.
We moved overseas when our boys were six and seven and our girls were one and three.
I suppose my fathering style could have been characterized as, um, B I G. I loved playing with our kids in wide open spaces, throwing things, kicking things, climbing things. We played loud and we took up a lot of space, and that’s how we liked it.
And then we moved to a concrete box with bars on the windows in an urban capital of a developing country. No grass. No yard. No large spaces.
For me, the shift from wide open spaces to urban jungle was rough. I had to adjust, but first I got depressed. Often, it’d happen on a Saturday; I’d wake up just wanting to go outside and throw a football with my kids.
And with the clarity of thought that overwhelms at times like this, I felt like I had moved from a garden to a prison. A prison that was 95 degrees and thick with humidity!
I had traded acres of green for walls of grey. En Gedi for Sheol.
I watched my kids hang from metal bars on windows when they used to hang from giant limbs on oaks. They were happy, but I was dying.
I missed being able to step outside and kick a soccer ball. I missed our fire pit on cold autumn nights. I missed our porch swing. I missed our yard. I missed the way I used to father.
But thank God the story doesn’t end there, with a depressed dad missing what once was. No, the story definitely doesn’t end there…
To read the rest of the story, click here.