Am I a bad parent?

I sometimes wonder if I’m a bad parent, or if I’ve made the wrong decision to live this nomadic lifestyle with my child.

bad parent, stable home


First off, there’s the lack of stability. We move around a lot. Honduras was our longest time of being in one place, and that was for 8 months. Next up would be the 3 months in Cozumel and 2 months on the oasis in Morocco. Considering we’ve been doing this for just over 2 years now, that’s a lot of moving around.

What have I seen? Nothing but positive so far. He’s well adjusted, adapts extremely easily, is very self confident, and seems to place value more on experiences and time spent together than on material things. I guess that’s pretty remarkable, especially for an American tween.

One of the most common questions we’re both asked is “Don’t you ever miss home?” We both have the same response: We sometimes miss spending time our friends, but other than that . . . no, not really. If anything, we miss places that felt like home more than the place we used to call “home.” We both pine for Utila, and I long to return to Morocco and France.

We’ve redefined the definition of home for us. It isn’t a place or structure. It’s us.

Utila felt like home. In fact, I even considered applying for residency while we were there. But, then the wanderlust kicked back in something fierce, and I also had to closely look at our life at the moment and compare that with the reasons we left the States to be, in effect, homeless indefinitely.

As I’ve written numerous times before, one of the big things that has come out of all this roaming is that we’ve redefined the definition of home for us. It isn’t a place or structure. It’s us.

That’s where his sense of stability comes from. And technology has been huge for helping us feel connected. We keep in touch with friends from back in the States as well as with the new ones we make during our travels. His best friend is part of a nomadic family, and thanks to Skype and Minecraft, they’re still very well connected, even though we’re on different sides of the globe.

I’m prepared to follow his lead. When he needs more time in a “base,” we’ll do that. We check in frequently to see where we’re both at. He knows that is an option and that I’m on board when that’s what he needs. Perhaps that is a form of stability as well—He knows Dad has his back.

bad parent, wow factor

The wow factor

The more we see, the less easy it is for us to be impressed. To Tigger, all ruins and temples are the same. It doesn’t matter if they’re on different continents, or if they were from different religions or civilizations. They’re all just same same.

I try to be completely present when we’re in a new area, but sometimes I can’t help feeling as he does. What we’ve found is while the culture, language, and food may change, we really aren’t all that different from each other.

And I can kind of see his point that “all old towns are the same.”—They all have old buildings that pretty much look the same as everywhere else. I struggle with his assessment that “Asia is boring,” but I kind of see where he’s coming from. Perhaps a tad.

When I consider things, almost 20% of his life has been moving from place to place. Actually, it began before we even found each other. He was with his biodad, then with his biological grandparents, then a foster home, then with me, then we had some family changes, then we left the States and became nomads. . . PHEW!

By the age of 11 he had seen almost as many countries as I had by the age of 42. That’s actually quite a bit packed into a short time.

But am I handicapping him but not living in such a way that he is amazed by new countries and new sights? Or is his ability to rapidly adapt and see people as, well, people rather than by their race and ethnicity a greater asset?

Is being wowed really that important in the face of complete acceptance of differences?

bad parent

An unrealistic life

Is there a chance he’ll continue the nomadic life after he’s an adult? Or am I just setting up with an unrealistic foundation? I think it’s natural for any parent to wonder what effect their decisions will have on their child when they’re grown. I certainly do my share of pondering!

I realize I’m teaching him that he can create the life he wants. It isn’t just lip service because he’s living it every day, and he sees that I’m doing just that.

So is it really unrealistic to teach him that he can make his dreams reality, that he can create the life he chooses?

I guess if that makes me a bad parent, I’ll take it.

What are your thoughts?

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  1. I don’t think either Franca or myself think you’re a bad parent at all, in fact we’ve used the experiences of the both of you in our discussions about our future and what we have planned for it.

    Do we want to have children? Sure. Do we want to take them travelling? Going on how the two of you do, for sure!

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  2. I think every parent–certainly, every loving parent–questions their choices at some point. That’s part of the process of figuring out and reassessing the whole parenting experience. Seems to me that all we can do is to try to do our best for child & family, staying flexible and adapting as necessary. And somehow, it all works out and the child becomes an adult. Another adult who survives a less than perfect childhood, because there is no such thing as a perfect childhood.

    I believe that travel is a great and important experience that shapes culturally-literate and caring human beings, so from my perspective, you’re an incredibly great parent.

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    • I think the more kids that grow up with a larger cultural perspective, the better our world will be. I hope that’s correct. 🙂

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  3. I honestly don’t think you are a bad parent, what you are giving your child is more than any sum of money or nice house in a nice neighbourhood.
    While we are not as nomadic as I want to be, we also teach our daughter that home is “us” and it is also the places we felt most like home. Living away from my home country for almost a decade I am asked all the time if I miss home and my answer is the same as yours, as I miss “my people” (family, friends) more than the place itself.
    Keep it up and always trust your instincts as a parent, as it shows you are doing a great job!

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    • I think living so that “us” is home is such a powerful way for kids to grow up. So great that you can do that even without being nomadic.

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  4. You are doing your kid a great service by filling the imagination with images which make anything seem possible, adaptation to unknown situations in the future much more manageable, a life of endless curiosity, and likely great confidence. As one who traveled around intensively with and without my two parents (students then professors) in the early 60’s through the 80’s, most of my childhood, teenage years, and into my 20’s, there was never anything negative that I can recall about the experience. Perhaps once I was disappointed to leave the French Riviera where I was treated like a god for being an American (yes the French loved and still generally love Americans who speak their language), and then there was the adjustment to a return back “home,” where it was hard to find others with whom share the experience. Fellow students wanted to speak about the TV shows they were watching while we had no TV…preferring books and the images collected from our travels. But I adapted easily enough through sports, etc. and always had supreme confidence born from the travel experience, and still do, while being humbled as just one of billions of people on the planet, each of whom have a different perspective and live differently simultaneously.

    All good you are doing. Kids will let you know if they are tired of incessant travel and need to establish some longer-lasting friendships for a bit.

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    • I think as long as you are in tune to your kids’ needs, have an open communication style, and relationship of respect, it makes it a lot easier. Since we do regular check-ins regarding our lifestyle, I feel like we’re in a good spot overall.

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  5. The best gift we can give our kids aside from unconditional love is to show them that anything is possible and that not only do their dreams matter but that they can absolutely make any of them come true. You have opened the world to him, his dreams will be bigger for it and his ability to reach those dreams will be higher as well!

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  6. Unless your son is malnourished or still doesn’t know the alphabet (which I’m sure is not the case!), I think you’re providing him with a fantastic life experience. I think if he expresses missing something more conventional then you can question your lifestyle. . . but not until then!

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    • Thanks, Larissa. I agree, which is why we do a lot of check-ins to make sure he’s getting his needs met.

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  7. Talon in my opinion you are an amazing parent. If all people would teach their kids half of things you are teaching your son world would be a better place. You give him something amazing, a bigger understanding of different cultures, races and religions which many people get to learn late, if at all.
    I can see your point about having stability in life, like childhood friends, it is a good thing as well. But the most important thing ever is a stability of a parent love!

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    • I definitely agree! I think it’s even easier with technology to have both worlds these days, too.

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  8. Make sure he keeps up with basic skills of reading/math either online or workbooks. Have him keep a journal for his writing and take tons of pictures. Go for it! He will have a better understanding of the world than anyone else his age.

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    • He does practical math daily: doing currency conversions, shopping, etc. I feel we definitely have that base covered pretty well.

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  9. By no means are you a bad parent. You deliver an amazing opportunity for your kid to engage with the world. However, at some point in the near future, he may have a longing to get closer to his friends at home and the ‘regular’ teen’s life. The big question is will you oblige and go back to the regular lifestyle then?

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    • We will definitely cross that bridge when we come to it. I don’t think he will want to “go back” to a regular lifestyle, but I do think eventually he’ll want to have a base that he stays at for longer periods of time. Either way, I’m definitely willing to do either if that’s what he needs.

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  10. I know that the “socialization” that he is getting from interacting with people all around the world is FAR, far superior to sitting in a classroom with 30 peers. bravo!

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  11. Am I being a bad parent? I am reluctantly following society’s rules, with pressure from my family, and living a comfortable life in suburbia hell. My daughter has consistency and stability but doesn’t like to take risks and resists change.
    My hat goes off to you. Your son is getting a world education, learning first hand about acceptance, change, struggles and culture. The fact that he places more value on experiences than material objects is a sentiment in itself. Yes, eventually temples are just temples, and zebras are just zebras, but you mustn’t underestimate the incredible experiences you are giving him.
    Don’t worry about the life he chooses. What will be, will be. For now, all that matters is that you have created a happy, self-disciplined child who will eventually be able to take care of himself and others 🙂
    I only wish I had a dad like you.

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    • Aww, shucks! Thank you, Deborah! And no, I don’t think you’re being a bad parent either. 🙂

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  12. Awesome post Talon – I have to be 100% honest and say that I’ve often wondered how fair I think it is to have the life of a nomad with your kids, because I feel like they’d be missing out on so much in terms of school and building the blocks to create their social skills. Are you a bad parent? Hell no. From what I’ve read in your posts Tigger seems like a pretty well-rounded kid, especially for his age!! And teaching your child to have the faith in himself that he can make his dreams come true – isn’t that the ultimate goal for any parent? It would definitely be mine, to make my kids have unadulterated belief that they have everything at their feet to help them achieve their goals. So consider my mind thoroughly changed, you’re doing a killer job.

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  13. My parents moved me around four times by the time I was five. I didn’t know any better at the time, but moving to a new school at age 12 was seriously the most devastating thing for me. But I adapted, just like Tigger does. He has the chance to learn in an experimental way that, as a teacher, I wish schools would allow for in Spain. Reading, writing and ‘rithmatic are not the only things that are important nowadays. Look up multiple intelligences – it’s probably more your style!

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    • I definitely agree. There are lots of things out there to learn and to be exposed to, and I also believe that traditional education isn’t always the best thing for many kids. Tigger just doesn’t learn in that environment, and in this one he absolutely thrives.

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  14. Talon – you’re one of the most outstanding, inspirational, loving parents I know.

    Last night I was speaking to a friend about your journeys (and I dont mean travel) and what a unique and wonderful perspective you bring to the world of parenting.

    Tigger has a sense of belonging that comes from within himself – how many children possess that?

    Whether he chooses to travel the world, or become a homebody when he grows up doesn’t matter.

    The qualities that you have instilled in him through word, deed, and by virtue of exposing him to this world will make him a one-of-a-kind well rounded, thoughtful and considerate adult : wherever and however he lives.

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    • “Tigger has a sense of belonging that comes from within himself – how many children possess that?” Powerful words! Thank you!

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  15. You’re the unconventional parent, and a good one at that. I admire what you’re doing with Tigger. I also admire that you can reflect and analyze, just don’t be too critical of yourself. I’m guilty of that sometimes.

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  16. We wonder the same things sometimes, but I feel pretty confident that what we are doing is offering our children a great education *especially* if we have a very open dialog with them and they know that the possibility to go back to a home base is there.

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  17. I don’t know, I have no answers. I can see that educationally it is by far the best option, but I wonder if my children will miss out on having life long friendships as I have with a few people and I wonder if I will spoil the enjoyment of travel for them as adults. But we will see. We leave in under two weeks!

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    • As someone who moved around a LOT as a kid, I never had that and always envied people who did. Of course, with technology know it’s a lost easier to keep in touch. I don’t know. It will be interesting to see what he thinks when he’s older.

      Congrats on the impending launch!!

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  18. Agreed with Kellie. Your style of parenting may be different than most, but that most certainly doesn’t make it “bad.” Inspired and unique are two words that pop into my head. In the age of the Internet, where a person lives geographically has less and less to do with continuity. The thing that counts most for your son is trust in his dad. You’re doing something I could never have done as I really, really, really like my comfort zone. Your ability to adapt to so many situations is inspirational.

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  19. As long as you’re providing love, support, and stability, then no, you’re not a bad parent, and I love your definition of ‘home’. I think all these experiences will set him up well for the future. He’ll be self-sufficient and confident, and not like a lot of kids who grow up without knowing how to boil an egg or figure out a public transport network on their own. Keep on doing what you’re doing!

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  20. Am I a bad parent? NO. You’re parenting is inspirational. If I’m ever lucky enough to have children, this is exactly the type of parent I’d love to be. I love that you’re definition of home, is ‘us’, children don’t need things they need people. The things you’re teaching him are invaluable, not just saying it but by doing it.

    My current day job is a child psychologist, so I’ve met a few ‘bad parents’. You’re certainly not, if only there were more parents like you about, my job would probably be non existent!

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    • While I wouldn’t want you out of a job, it sure would be nice if it wasn’t a necessary role. 🙂

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