When I was four years old, my parents moved their young family from the bottom of a park to the top. My parents never moved again.
Half a century later, my mother still lives there, surrounded by all five of her children within a ten kilometre radius. Her dreams are of forays into her beloved garden, not of travel adventures abroad. Everything she needs is within her castle walls. She left Australian shores only once and didn’t see any benefit in doing so again.
As a young woman, I shared my mother’s stay-at-home gene.
When I left school, I didn’t take the gap year that some of my contemporaries did. Back then, there were equal numbers of detractors and supporters: some considered it a break in study habits that would never be regained, others saw it as a rite of passage into adulthood. I fell into neither camp: I just had other plans.
I traded travel for early marriage and motherhood. Thirty years later, single and free of parental responsibilities, my boundaries have shifted and the urge to see more of the world has taken hold. I am not going to make up for a lifetime of staying at home in the time left to me but I’ve made a start, with the enthusiastic encouragement and support of my children.
Theirs is a generation of travellers, primed by unprecedented access to other countries and cultures via the internet.
These same technologies have also allowed them to witness terror and destruction, both manmade and natural, on a global scale. But this knowledge doesn’t curtail their enthusiasm for travel. The optimism of youth feeds their faith in their safe return.
Whatever our personal misgivings, we as parents of these adventurous souls are well advised to wave them a cheery farewell, safe in the knowledge that we have no choice. I’m not aware of any child who has thanked a parent in ten, twenty, thirty years’ time for holding them back.
As we grow older, excessive caution can lead us to limit our own freedoms; it is unfair to inflict this restraint on our children. I have learned from my children’s natural optimism to live a fuller life. There are personal risks associated with my decision – my mother is 88 years old – but neither of us will allow her age to be an excuse for me to stay home.
My daughter has just left home for a year of adventure in parts unknown.
She has done this once before and we not only survived but thrived through the experience. She is peripatetic, solvent and child-free. I applaud and support her sense of adventure, as my mother celebrates mine.
All three of us share a belief in a benign universe, and a faith that we will meet again in that rambling old house overlooking the park to share stories of our adventures.
This story first appeared in The Sunday Age on September 29 2019.