Looking back over the last year I’m aware that I’ve struggled quite a bit with the idea of being rooted. Ever since I can remember, my family has been fairly transient, and I’ve embraced and made that lifestyle my own. Aside from one friend from my last year of primary / elementary school I have no childhood friendships. Northampton, England, the place I call home, is where my family live, but I have no real connection with the place.
My wife and I spent the first 6 years of our marriage living out of backpacks, temporarily residing in an abandoned shell of a house, housesitting for various people, occupying a one room hut on a tropical island, and sleeping on floors, couches, and in spare rooms as we stayed with friends and family. The possessions that hold real value for me I could probably fit in a small overnight bag.
As a family we seem to be entering a new season, however, one where structure and routine is helpful and perhaps even necessary. We have moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, and are beginning to put down some roots. Our kids, Simon, Eva have been fairly adaptable so far but we are aware of the importance of stability in their life as they grow up in helping establish a sense of identity. But how much stability is enough?
As I’ve been exploring this question a number of things have come up. A big one is the fact that roots, in the natural realm, create strength. They enable trees and plants to stand fast when faced by adverse weather. They also allow access to sustenance, the things those plants need to grow and thrive. It would make sense that this applies for us as humans too.
What does it look like for us to have roots though? Do we have to be connected to a geographical place? If so, what does that mean for those of us that thrive on travel and adventure?
Growing up I certainly had a lot of stability within my family, and there were periods where we lived in one place for a number of years. The longest period during my childhood was in the last seven years, between 11 and 18. Interestingly, after a year of college and another year working in the States as an au pair, I settled in York, England for University and ended up being there for seven years too.
Rootedness for me has always come out of relationships, rather than geography. When I worked and traveled for seven years in the South Pacific even these seemed transient however. I worked with a lot of young people who would come for 6 months at a time and then return home. Relationships with local people lasted over a longer period of time, but were harder to establish and if it hadn’t been for the consistency of relationship with my wife I think I would have found it much harder.
The conclusion that I am coming to is that somewhere on our journey we have to start developing an internal strength that is rooted in an understanding of ourselves, and who we were created to be. As parents we have a big responsibility in establishing and nurturing this within our children, and whilst much of it will come through a sense of place, and relationship, we also have to go beyond this in helping them understand that it is both bigger, and more intimate, than what are able to provide.