There are two perfectly normal questions that I am regularly asked that always provoke a little twinge in my stomach. The closer my relationship with the asker, the stronger the feeling:
- "Are you going to (or why don't you) move to Wisconsin/Minnesota/Austria?"
- "How do you pronounce your son's name again?"
These are reminders of the life-long issues that Dinka and I brought on ourselves when we got married. There was never any doubt about the decision to get married and when—at a certain point, we both just knew that this is how things had to be and that we'd have to figure out a way to make everything else work. So there's no possibility for regret (lucky for us, I suppose), but there's also nothing that can be done to unburden oneself of the consequences of that decision.
It's hard to explain to people the lump in my throat and the heaviness in my heart when I consider the impossibility of our situation. There is no way to successfully straddle the geographical divide between our families. Our kids will grow up without being in close contact with one or both sets of grandparents for extended periods of time. There will be distant cousins that could have been close friends, uncles that cannot pick up the kids on a whim to take them fishing, aunts whose cooking they will never grow to love. One pair of grandparents will always be living with their grandkids—that and the memory of Veronika and Ivan's joy in spending time with them is enough to make me pause. Every Easter, Christmas, baptism and birth will always be missing something.
So what's the right thing to do? What's most fair to our families, most fair to our family? I wish I knew. For now, we choose an awkward compromise—to live without either of them (which is "fair", I suppose) and try to visit everyone equally. We don't choose sides, but then we also lose by narrowing the possibility of a close relationship with anyone.
The same is true of choosing names for our children. We exhaust the lists, searching for that one perfect name that we love and that will be accepted and pronounceable in three languages, a perfect compromise. But it doesn't exist (I think Veronika is the closest we'll ever come). So we choose a middle ground, awkward for at least some, trying to please everyone and maintain our own identity at once.
We cannot give our children the lives that we had and loved growing up, but we will give them our life, multi-cultural and bilingual and transatlantic as it is, and our example to them—that in the end, love is all that matters and that everything else can be overcome.