Moving From Pakistan: Saying Goodbye to Extended Family

Silhouette Of A Woman Waving Goodbye To An Airplane

By Sarah Suhail

Children and Desi families can be described in one simple line:

The village raises the child.

I remember a time when I felt odd telling my western friends that my husband and I, his brother, wife and daughter, his sister, mom and dad all lived together in a 4 bedroom house by choice. It’s wasn’t due to a lack of finances but simply because we all decided to live together.

Photo Credit: Sarah Suhail

Photo Credit: Sarah Suhail

We moved out later but after our daughter entered the picture we eventually moved back with the in-laws. Now that it’s time to move countries I have to get my little girl to accept that it will only be the 3 of us living together. No more cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents…zip. There were a few things I did that lessened the blow to her precious little heart.

Celebrate the Lasts

What is it that makes extended families so awesome? It’s the barbecues, sleepovers, random visits and mall outings. In a city where there’s not much to do outside we become experts at creating wonderlands in our very own backyards. For us that meant getting messy in the sandbox, having snacks in the garden, painting rocks on the weekends, and baking in the living room because it was too hot in the kitchen. We made our own children’s paradise.

And now what? In Karachi, Aaliyah’s paradise revolved around her cousins coming over and doing everything with her. As an only child they were the only sisters she had. Now I’m mentally getting her ready to have her Mama and Baba as her only company. To get her ready to be “alone” I’ve given her “last everythings”. Last baking events, last sleepover and tonight the day before we leave the last family barbecue. And for each one, she’s been told: this is your last sleepover/bbq/play date with your Api – and she’s accepted it as much as possible for a 4 year old.

Revel in the Wonders of Video Calls

Businessman father talking to his family from the officeAnyone who knows either me or my husband knows that we’re extremely pro Android. The one and only place we slip on the diehard resolution is FaceTime. There’s a reason why FaceTime beats all other video call apps and that’s because it’s simply awesome. Now for this one and only reason my husband was convinced that we needed an apple product in our pure android family. Luckily we didn’t have to hurt our bank account to enter the apple cult because he was gifted an iPad Mini from his office as a farewell gift.

The first thing hubby did for Aaliyah was to enter our extended family contacts for her. Since she’s a beginner reader, she’s able to click on the person’s name that she wants to talk to. These days, kids learn to use apps such as WhatsApp and FaceTime even before they start reading so I chose this skill to reinforce to my kid that she’s connected with her family even if we’re half a world apart.

Take Advantage of New Activities

One challenge of taking a child who’s used to hot weather to a winter climate is they just don’t want to get out of the house! This makes it pretty difficult to explore all the wonders of a big happening city such as Toronto. I had initially planned on taking her out to the aquariums and museums and had this wonderful fantasy that she’d forget everyone she left behind. Little did I know that central heating would be so comforting to her that she wouldn’t want to step out of the house.  Moving From Pakistan: Saying Goodbye to Extended Family

So we had to submerge her in personally my least favorite activity in the world: screen time. Movies, iPad games, cell phones – anything that made her feel like she was getting spoiled. We brought along a few toys in the suitcase but she was just not interested in those. I got into cooking with her again, asking her to do the smallest of tasks. And when cabin fever took over I forced her to go shopping with us. Asked her which dustbin she’d like for our house or what cooking spoons she’d like in the kitchen. Anything that requires her input.

Again, kids are just so much more understanding and sensitive than we give them credit for. She’s missed her cousins so much that she started dreaming about them. About the only thing we could do was distract her as much as possible and keep reassuring her that the three of us were together and as a team we’d build a new home for us all. Continuing in the spirit of moving from the East to the West, I’ll next talk about tips to get kids to get used to the cold – as soon as I figure it out!


More about the Author

Sarah Suhail - CSarah Suhail is a momma of two – one on earth and one in heaven. She’s gone from being a teacher to a social media and human resource strategist with many professions in between. Writing started off as a passion to connect with awesome people around the globe. Her mommy blogging revolves around rediscovering the world through her daughters eyes by finding dragons in the clouds and painting fairy houses for their garden. She has written for tech giants, global consultants and writes for two of her own blogs: Trippy Traingle and JigsawHR. When not writing she’s crocheting, baking, drawing and watching cartoons with her daughter.

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  1. Yasmine

    Moving to another country takes major guts and courage! And what about moving from East to West – different cultures and people! I admire your decision!

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