Tonight, we are going to renew our residence permits for our lives in Belgium. That means that I have officially been a Belgium resident for five years. Five years...and in one breath it seems like just days, while in the next it feels like a lifetime.
As a citizen of the Netherlands, Erwin has the right to work and live in any of the European Union countries. After I obtained my naturalised citizenship as a Nederlander, I was also granted those same priviledges, though I was partially granted rights just as the wife of my husband, even as an American citizen. Our children have these rights as well, though upon turning eighteen they will be forced to declare which citizenship they choose, rather than having the advantage of being Dutch-American citizens.
This to me is a bit strange. They are born dual citizens, why should they have to make a choice over which countryman to become and waive their birth-given rights? As their mother, I have been granted dual citizenship, simply by following the integration program rules, paying fees, and being married to my husband. I was not given these rights at birth. I will also not be forced to revoke these rights. But my children will. If I can be granted dual-citizenship, I feel it should also be granted to my children, for their entire lives, and not just until the day they reach the age of adulthood. At the age of eighteen, will my children have had the oppotunity to have explored and become knowledgeable enough to make such a life-altering decision?
I realize that the majority of people are born into a country and never have the freedom to choose which country they want to honor. But, my children were lucky having parents of two nationalities to give them a beneficial start in ife; living and learning two cultures, living and learning two languages, living and learning two lands. In our case, three with our move to Belgium. However, at such a crucial age as 18, when one begins making their own choices about life, begins making a career track and setting off on their own to explore life, it seems that taking away their choice in a matter as important as nationality is unfair. They haven't had the option to explore both lands and make an educated decision about which they want to make their own. And once that choice is made, it is extremely difficult to make a change, if at all possible.
This situation makes me a bit sad. Since my children have lived their entire lives growing up in Europe, it would be very inconsistent with what they have lived and learned to make a choice to become American citizens. Though they are still young, I can already ake a guess as to what choices my children will make in the future. Kaeden may actually lean more toward America, being that he has had an opportunity to live there, and has the patriotism to America in which Jari is lacking. Jari, without even a doubt in my mind, would choose to make his home in Europe. And, because of my dual citizenship, Erwin and my choices are much broader than those of our children. Will we have the opportunity to one day live in America as we hope, and leave our children and grandchildren behind in Europe? Or will we, because of government regulations forcing our childre to make a choice, also be forced to remain on European soil in order to protect our family unit.
This sounds very irrational. I was born an American and made a chocie to become a European. Both places are embedded in my heart, both I consider my home. But I left my family, I left America, to create a new life with my husband and our children. My children could very easily resort to the same. But, knowing what I now do, I don't want to lose my children to the soil on the other side of the world. I want us to remain a fmaily unti within bounds of being physically present. What happens when each of my children choose another route in life?And most especially, what happens to my autistic son when he makes a choice to be an American citizen and I am living on European soil?
In any case, it's something to consider after five years living in Belgium. I wonder where I, my huband, and my children, will be when another five years rolls around.