How one small decision by my parents shaped my whole life
You know the way you make decisions for your kids every day? And you don’t really think much about it? Bog standard decisions. What to have for dinner. What to do at the weekend. Where to go on holiday.
Did you know that sometimes those small decisions can have far-reaching consequences? Like one of them did for me.
A small decision my parents made when I was 8 years old literally changed my whole life, and it still affects the life I live today.
I’m pretty certain they wouldn’t have predicted this in a million years, and it’s something that still makes us shake our heads in wonder even now (I’m 40).
Before I share what it is let me give you a bit of background.
I am one of five children (all from the same parents, not catholics – questions we were commonly asked). I’m the middle one, and until the age of 8 I’d never been abroad. We’d had family holidays, to Norfolk, Somerset and the New Forest, but we’d never left the UK.
Then one day my parents got this golden opportunity. To take all of us on holiday to a campsite in the south of France (Fréjus) for two weeks, as the company my dad worked for had a static caravan there, open to all employees.
I’m guessing it’s not a decision they took lightly – we were aged 3 to 13, my parents didn’t (and still don’t) really speak any French, it would mean all of us cramming into our Volvo Estate for a 30 hour trip (one way). All back in the days when there was no air conditioning in cars, when the only entertainment was the car’s tape deck and radio, walkmans, books and puzzle books.
But despite all this my parents decided to go for it, and we set set off on our first foreign holiday.
And it blew my mind.
Do you know what happened?
We drove off the ferry and suddenly we were driving on the “wrong” side of the road.
Everyone spoke this weird language, but could understand each other. And even though they spoke differently the numbers on speed limit signs were just like in England.
So, so weird.
We ate strange stuff.
I learnt to stretch my bladder like I’d never done before to avoid the “Turkish-style” toilets, otherwise known as “holes in the ground”.
We were surrounded by French families on the campsite and, as I’ve always been a sociable type, I tried to make friends with the kids on the plot next to us. With my vocabulary of “Bonjour” and “Au revoir” we weren’t getting far, but with the aid of a pocket dictionary and constant questioning of my sisters’ and parents’ I did manage to have a fortnight friendship with them.
The funny thing is that no one else in the family seemed at all fazed by the whole “they’re all speaking another language, and can understand each other!” thing that I had going on.
I think I spent the whole fortnight with my mouth wide open, amazed at everything and soaking it all up.
I would beg my parents to tell me how to say things so I could ask for bread or pizza in shops and restaurants.
I vividly remember that whole holiday.
When we got home I begged my parents to take us back the following year. I told anyone who would listen (and plenty of people who wouldn’t) that I was going to do a French degree and become a French teacher.
I’d fallen in love. Age 8. With a country. A race. A language.
We went back many times afterwards, but it was that first year that stays with me in such technicolour.
And you see that decision of my parents, that family holiday, changed and impacted the rest of my life.
I went on to study French (and Spanish) at university, living in my beloved country for the first time at the age of 20.
When I graduated I moved to France and ended up living there for 12 years. I met my (French) husband there. I had my first (French) pets there. I bought my first (and second) home there. I got pregnant and had my first baby there. I ran my first business there.
Despite now living in Mauritius, France will always hold a special place in my heart, and will always be somewhere I call home.
My children are half French. At home I communicate in French more than in my mother tongue. My life feels like a half-French one, no matter where I live in the world.
So you see, when you’re making small decisions, like family holidays, for your kids, just imagine what an incredible door you might be opening for them into their future world.
As ever, thank you so much for reading. I’d love to hear your comments on this one – did any small decisions your parents made affect you in your later life? Do tell all in the comments below!
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Until next time and with much love,
What a lovely post. Your love for France resonates with me – I live in France (Brit with French husband) our 2 children are half French and I have always had a fascination with this country thanks to my parents who decided to buy a holiday place here when were young. I agree that your parents decisions can have such an impact on your life and you as a person! Am loving having a read through your blog posts, very interesting and inspirational 🙂 x