It was only a few weeks ago that we told you we were going to stay in the UK. That your lives were changing forever. That you’d never head back to the bedroom you knew, nor the pool we visited every evening as the sun set, nor the school we all loved so much.
We waited until we were in the car, on the way to visit your new school for the first time. Daddy told you in the end, because my voice kept breaking as I spoke. His tone was animated and excited – and as I listened to him announce the news, tears welled in my eyes.
I always knew you’d find it hardest Stanley – and I wasn’t wrong. My sensitive little thinker, with such good friends in Dubai that you were so excited to return to. You were happy at first, exclaiming ‘We’re staying in the UK? Forever? We’re staying here forever?” When Daddy told you that was the case, you smiled broadly. But as the car wound down country roads, the sun flashing through the trees over our heads, I could tell your mind was whirring.
“So we’re not going back to Dubai? What about my friends? I don’t want to stay here. I want to go back!”
“Oh we’ll still see them!” I managed to pipe up, as my heart shattered into a million pieces inside my chest. “We’ll be going out to see Daddy every school holiday. It’s just swapped round, so we’ll live in the UK but we’ll do our holidays in Dubai.”
You didn’t reply, deep in thought. But I could tell the faces of your friends were bright in your mind.
Wilfred, you were silent. You stared out the window as the fields and hedgerows flashed past. “Are you excited, Wilfred?” I asked, twisting to look at you from the front of the car.
“Yeah,” you said, without looking away from the window. I wondered what was going through your mind as you watched the countryside zoom past. I wondered if you were still too young to feel sad about it, whether you were imagining your bedroom in your mind, or your friends at nursery, or the fact that you were about to start school.
We didn’t say much more as we continued that journey. We were all deep in thought – half sad, half excited. And throughout it all Mabel, you slept peacefully in your car seat, completely oblivious to the news that your life was about to take a completely different turn. That your sun hats and rompers would be packed away in boxes, replaced by knitted cardigans and tights. That your mornings being pushed along in the sunshine in your buggy would be replaced by strolls covered in blankets. That you’d no longer have to sit still while I smothered you in sun cream every morning and instead you’d have to learn to tolerate rain covers, waterproofs, hats and gloves.
Later that morning, we walked around your new school. We listened to stories about lessons deep in the forest. We imagined you climbing in the playground in the rain and the snow. We were told about nativity performances and trips to visit animals on farms. We were shown the swimming pool and I imagined you swimming in it in winter, shivering as you climbed out of the water.
Writing this letter to you today, it seems surreal that morning was only a matter of weeks away. And whilst I still feel pretty shell-shocked by the speed of it all, I could not be prouder of the way the three of you have adapted, accepted, and embraced your new life in the English countryside.
You have had your wobbles – of course you have – but you have walked into new classrooms with a bravery that has made me swell with pride. You have made new friends, played new games, and worn new uniforms – and you have taken it all in your stride. I know that you’ve found it hard at times, because we talk about how you feel every evening, but your courage never fails you the very next morning.
My little nomad children, it will always read ‘Dubai’ on your birth certificates – and I hope you always remember that life in the desert. I hope you remember the burnt orange dunes, the smell of jasmine in the air in our garden, the feeling of pink shells underneath your feet on the shore, the different nationalities that surrounded you in the classroom, and the comforting sound of the call of prayer in the afternoons.
I hope you remember all that.
It’s part of you.
It’s part of us.
But here comes the next chapter – and your courage, your adaptability, and the smiles that have rarely left your faces are just the beginning of the story.
And you have made me so proud.
Love Mummy x