The Leaving Series Part 6: Leaving and Staying

I’ve so enjoyed this little series on leaving and want to thank again all those who have sent in stories to share. Today’s guest post comes from an ATCK who writes books for and about TCKS. You can find my interview with Valérie about her book, B at Home: Emma Moves Again here. Please welcome, Valérie and what she as to say about being left behind.

At most international schools, June is marked as the ‘leaving month’. Last year, I wrote a piece here specifically about leaving and saying goodbye. It was prompted by people leaving, people close to us dying, and a lot of grief. “Partir, c’est mourir un peu” (translation: Leaving is to die a little), but I have come to realize that staying is as well. This school year, my focus is shifting towards ‘staying’.

Clearly, being left behind by loved ones who pass is an entire different kind of loss. The abruptness of death’s goodbye can be heartbreaking and so few words of comfort can do justice. However, in terms of the global mobile lifestyle, we are often granted the luxury of anticipating goodbyes. Staying au lieu of leaving confronts us with just as much loss. Perhaps even more, because when others leave, we are left with a certain emptiness. And as the emptiness is not filled with all the new input that comes along with starting again somewhere else, the emptiness can sometimes be more overwhelming than we imagine. After all, when we stay, we are not confronted with intense changes to our lives on almost every front. Yet, our lives do change forever.

Last year, I had to say good bye to one of my closest friends and her family. When they left, my daughters and I had to part with certain small rituals and traditions that we had built up together with my friend and her daughters. At the ages of three and one, my girls didn’t understand why we didn’t have regular play-dates any more. Even after traveling on many trans-atlantic flights to visit grandparents, distance is not an easy concept for a young child. Months after our friends left, my three-year-old would still ask if we would meet up with her friend when we drive to the local playground or in the general direction of their old house.

When we are the leaver, or the mover, nothing can ever replace what or who we leave behind, but eventually the transition curve catches up and excitement about what is new catches on. When we are left behind, eventually things do fill up the empty space that other leave, but we all know that filling up never replaces. And then the seasons pass, and the people who fill up our lives become the very ones who we grow another attachment to and who we will need to say goodbye to at another point. The cycle of mobility doesn’t stop, and most of us wouldn’t even want it to.

As an ATCK, teacher and mother, and passionate about the subject of children and mobility, I do believe we can help our children become strong leavers and stayers. With the luxury of anticipation, and the research-based evidence of the effects of unresolved grief and mobility on a child’s life, we owe it to our children and students to provide them with the tools and language to say goodbye properly. To be able to leave well and to be able to be left behind well, is the beginning of intentionally jumping into a new journey.

As many TCKs feel that their idea of ‘home’ is associated with a sense of belonging, this attachment to ‘home’ changes when people around them leave. It is important to ensure that they are supported in their transitions as well. Just as there is an art to leaving well, there is most certainly an art to staying (as) well. For the first time in my adult life, I am moving into my sixth year in the same house, in the same town, holding the same job. For the first time I am starting to feel like a stayer, without losing sight of the probability of leaving again one day, and it is putting so much in perspective.

Thanks Valérie for taking time to write for us today. 

VBesanceney booksOriginally Dutch, Valérie Besanceney grew up changing schools and countries five times as a child. She is a quintessential Third Culture Kid (TCK) turned adult, with a passion for traveling while cultivating a strong sense of home. Currently, home is in Switzerland, together with her American husband and their two daughters. Apart from writing, Valérie loves teaching Year 3 at an international school.

Valérie’s first book, B at Home: Emma Moves Again (Summertime Publishing), is a fictional “memoir” about the experiences of a ten-year-old girl and her teddy bear who have to move, yet again. During the different stages of their relocation, Emma’s search for home takes root. As the chapters alternate between Emma’s and her bear’s point of view, Emma is emotionally torn whereas B serves as the wiser and more experienced voice of reason.With this book, Valérie hopes to give younger TCKs a story that they can identify with while they experience their own challenging move.

Her second book, My Moving Booklet (Summertime Publishing), is designed to help children through the initial stages of an upcoming move. Moving can be exciting and terrifying at the same time. It can be very sad to say goodbye, but it can also be incredibly fun to experience new things and meet new people. Everybody experiences a move differently, but it is very important to say goodbye properly. This booklet allows children to truly welcome the new challenges and adventures that lie ahead of them, together with their parents and teachers. In many parts of the booklet, they will have the opportunity to either write about it, to draw a picture, or to glue on a photograph. This is their own unique story that one day will serve as a keepsake of a life-changing event.

Although both books are targeted at a younger TCK audience, Valérie also hopes to reach out to parents and educators of TCKs. You can find more information on her website: www.valeriebesanceney.com and Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/besanceneyvalerie.

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Author Interview: Valérie Besanceney

IMG_9127This week I’m celebrating my 100th post here on Raising TCKs. Click here to find out how you can enter the giveaway to win a signed copy of B at Home: Emma Moves Again by Valérie Besanceney.

Today I have the opportunity to share with you some more about this great book and author. So, sit down with your cup of coffee (or tea, but Valérie and I would be drinking coffee) and learn more about Valerie and the backstory of B and Emma.

As a Dutch TCK, Valérie knows all about packing up belongings and moving around the world. As a child she moved five times, and countless times as an adult. She understands the ins-and-outs of being the child who feels they had little or any choice in moving to new places, learning new languages, and making new friends.

All transitions have advantages and challenges. Children, and many adults, usually only acknowledge the challenges. This is true during the transition of a move as well. As an adult, Valérie now sees the advantages of being a TCK and shares this knowledge in her book through the sideline character, B. The idea of this unique character came from her childhood. B was her traveling sidekick during those transitional years of maturing into an adult, but also transitioning from country to country. Today, B is still a part of her family as he sits peacefully on her bed. Valérie believes that having a “sacred object” helps TCKs as they make their transitions, just as B helps Emma make hers.

 Where is home?

Like most TCKs, Valérie has had her struggle in finding where “home” is. After university she found herself back in the little village of Switzerland where her parents took her on holidays. It was there as a ski-instructor she met her husband, an American. They worked and backpacked together until they earned their Masters in (International) Education. From there they taught in international schools all around the world: Egypt, Bolivia, Aruba, and now back in Switzerland. They have two daughters and can’t wait to show them more of the world. For now, though, that consists of holiday trips, as they have chosen to plant some roots –

“Even though my husband and I both easily get itchy travel feet, there is also a certain calm charm to being able to plant some roots in these early years of their childhood.”

Valérie appreciates the time her parents took to always go back to the village in Switzerland that became sort of home to her as she became an adult.

Write what you know.

Valérie has always loved writing. She took classes in university and enjoyed writing fiction based on her personal experience. Writers are always told to write what they know and Valérie knows “moving.” As a child she struggled with the feeling of not belonging. She says about writing her book that: “Partly, I needed to write this story for myself. But mostly, as a primary teacher and as a mother, I felt a growing sense of responsibility to let children know that they are not alone in their search for ‘home’.”

Although it took her three years to complete the book, she was able to write a large portion of the book during her maternity leave. Like most writers she needed encouragement and support from those closest to her. Valérie says, “I am lucky to have a very supportive husband who is a wonderfully involved house-husband and father to our girls.” She continues to write now that she is back in the classroom, but she admits that finding the balance is “tricky.”

“They described my experience better than I’d ever been able to myself.”

Before Valérie began writing about her TCK experience, she first read Third Culture Kids: Growing up Among Worlds by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken. She says that after she read the book she “felt an overwhelming sense of recognition and relief.” She had the opportunity to hear Ruth speak about her work. The stories “were even more powerful in person.” It was from this opportunity that Valérie found the courage to pitch Ruth her story idea about Emma. From there, Ruth put her in touch with Jo Parfitt at Summertime Publishing and as the saying goes, “the rest is history.”

 Valérie’s thoughts on publishing~

  • I think it’s important to know that it will take time and that you need to be patient.
  • Take the time to edit your work until you’re truly happy with it.
  • Take the time to let your target audience read it and give you honest feed back on the content of your work.
  • Take the time to let it rest once in a while before you continue writing.
  • After many people, including professional editors, have edited it have someone who you trust give it a final read through. I’ve learned that it’s very easy to become ‘blind’ to small errors and ‘fresh’ eyes are always helpful.

Valérie’s thoughts on helping kids transition~

“I think the best thing you can do for your child is to accept that your child will likely go through many different emotions during different stages of the transition. It’s important to acknowledge all of these emotions, not to underestimate the grief that saying goodbye will cause them, and to comfort them without judgment.”

Wise words to part with. I want to thank Valérie for taking the time to answer all my questions and for allowing me to share her story.

Again, if you haven’t signed up for the contest, you need to do that. Deadline is May 30th.

BONUS POINTS: Yes, today you have an opportunity to add more points and have a better chance at winning B at Home: Emma Moves Again. All you have to do is subscribe to our websites. For mine, you just need to scroll up and it is located on the right side of your screen. For Valérie’s, you need to click here. Her subscription box is also located on the right side as well. After you subscribe just comment below that you followed and you’ll get two extra entries for each (total of 4). If you already are a subscriber, then just comment below that you want to enter the giveaway because we sure don’t want to exclude those of you who have been following us thus far.