Jessica with her four daughters
Roots and Wings is a follow-up to Jessica Lara Ticktin's blog series On the Fly: Homeschooling Adventures Around the World, in which she chronicled her family's recent four-month international adventure. In this series, she explores her family's efforts to incorporate what they learned from their trip into their daily life in Vermont. This is her last installment. Look out for a new series from Ticktin about raising girls coming soon.
It's been just over four months since my family returned from our journey around the world. That's almost as long as we were away. We are changed as a family, but have readjusted to the school routines and work schedules at home in Burlington.
Here are some of the things we learned from our trip that we carry with us as we embark on this new chapter of our lives:
1. Perspective on what is important
We don't sweat the small stuff much anymore. When you fall on your pregnant belly into oncoming traffic and knock a hole through your lip, like I did on our trip, you are grateful for your life, that of your unborn child and your whole family. It's okay if you have to eat fish soup for breakfast and bathe in a too-small tub the next day. When you find yourselves in rural China boarding a train and not knowing when your station is coming or how to communicate with anyone and your children are hungry and exhausted, it feels like less of a big deal when you don't get what you want for dinner or you miss the ice cream truck.
2. Kindness is necessary
Making your way through the world requires kindness. Sometimes it's a gesture as small as driving your kids to school and letting someone cut in even though you are in a rush or smiling and asking "How are you?" to the check-out person at the grocery store. Kindness is an essential ingredient to happiness — yours and others. A Japanese woman who worked in a bakery near our house in Kyoto gave our girls free treats every time we walked by. In China, people spent the better part of an hour helping us find our guest house in the old city of Lijang even though none of us spoke each other's languages. Kindness is universal.
3.Be a problem solver
It's easy to complain about what is wrong and how you wish things were different. We had mishaps on our trip, like when Dahlia dropped our rental car keys down a sewer in Hawaii or when we lost our way and had no place to sleep in rural South Africa. Instead of becoming hysterical and panicking, we had to be resourceful and find ways to solve our problems. Recently, I tool my four girls to New Jersey to visit cousins without my husband, Adam. We got lost, my phone battery ran out and we had no maps in the car. Not one of us got upset. We all just knew the best thing to do would be to stop at a gas station and ask for directions. Problem solved.
4. The 3C's
Since Adam instituted the 3C's (Caring, Confidence and Curiosity) on our trip, we have had regular Sunday evening meetings to talk about them. Each child gives examples of how they exhibited these behaviors in their daily lives and we give them constructive feedback and praise where appropriate. The girls take this seriously and have journals where they record their actions. Adam and I also share what we have done. Together we are all becoming better, more caring, confident and curious people.
5. Have a sense of humor
After seeing intense poverty and inequality in the townships of Cape Town, meeting the survivors of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and watching children with masks on playing in the polluted air of Beijing, it can be easy to feel burdened by the seriousness of the world's problems and fall prey to negativity or cynicism. We have learned that levity is a key to survival. In fact, in all the places we saw suffering, we also heard laughter. As a family, we laugh regularly and heartily at ourselves and at each other. We seek out funny stories, jokes and riddles to share. Humor plays a central role in our lives even as we try to find ways to give back and help the world's problems in small ways.