Family reluctantly leaves Chicago in pursuit of a dream

My husband and I fell for each other years ago, playing summer league Ultimate Frisbee along Lake Michigan and drinking beer afterwards at Schubas Tavern. Soon after we met, an amazing job opportunity took me 1,000 miles away, but not for long. After six months of heartsick, long-distance romance, we were engaged. Having lived in numerous cities and countries, I wasn’t quite ready to stay put-but I was in love with a Chicago boy and knew that’s where we’d spend our lives, rooting for the Cubbies in summer and hibernating in winter.

Years passed swiftly with career-building, home-buying and child-rearing, and our world expanded beyond the latest restaurants and cultural events to Ralph Covert concerts, Hamlin Park T-ball and story time at the zoo. Now ingrained in our neighborhood and professional communities, once our three “city kids” were settled into school, even I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

But the tanking of the world’s economy affected us, like millions of others. My freelance work slowed down and Ted’s latest venture, as a partner in the development of a Caribbean island, was suddenly in flux as banks and buyers and builders all tried to sort out what the future would hold.

Having never moved as a child, I had no intention of ever uprooting my own kids-but my husband and I looked at each other in the dead of winter last year and had an “aha” moment. For his island venture to realize its full potential, he needed to be there, on-site, making things happen.

As parents, we knew this would be an incredible family adventure, but we could also tell there would be bumps ahead, mainly for our 8-year-old who had no desire to trade in his beloved city life for the unknowns of island life.

Amid choruses of “I’m SOOO jealous!” we shed tears and hugged endless goodbyes before touching down late last summer.

Looking back, those first weeks were as intense as the heat, wearing us out physically and emotionally. We had shipped 38 boxes of “stuff” to our rented townhome, but still the boys dwelled on what got left behind. With no other families nearby, they felt isolated, as did I. And their reaction after a week at their new school included tears and intense complaining over the uniforms, too-strict teachers and classmates who “don’t like Americans.”

My mom-guilt went into overdrive and I began second-guessing the school, the move and overall island life. How could it ever compare to what we had back home?

And then time passed. And more time passed. The kids joined soccer and roller hockey leagues. I met some very cool mothers from Canada, Mexico, England and Venezuela. We discovered there were kids in the neighborhood, and family dinners became more common as life slowed down. My 4-year-old learned how to swim across the deep end, my 6-year-old discovered some surrogate grandparents in the couple next door and my 8-year-old found other 8-year-olds (none American) who like to play Wii, read Wimpy Kid books and build LEGO models.

From the success of the project that brought us here to the rich diversity of activities, ethnicities and nationalities that is now part of our everyday existence, I’m now certain that moving away from what we knew and loved was the right move for us as a family.

Yes, we still miss our friends, our neighborhood, our favorite museums and restaurants, but we will enjoy and grow from our stint in “paradise,” knowing home sweet home will be there for us when we get back.

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