Okay, I've messed up... and it only took me two weeks plus a dozen or so subtle hints --by Willow's standards-- to notice. I guess I should have seen it coming, but it's not like I have that much experience in this whole having a father business. The truth is that I never really expected him to be worried about my past, much less did I expect him to feel guilty about it. Heck, Naomi never worried about it and she was actually there... well, sometimes. Was my childhood perfect? No, it wasn't, but it wasn't awful either and I think Giles has succeeded in convincing himself that it was hell on earth... and for a guy who deals with the very real possibility of hell on earth on a daily basis that is saying something.
So what if Naomi wasn't always there, if I didn't have a place to call home while I was growing up? Unconventional doesn't necessarily mean bad, no matter what the media tries to tell us. Yes, there were some rough times --I won't deny that-- and there were plenty of times when I would have loved a chance to be like other kids, to have a mother and a father, to go to the same school in the same town with the same people for years instead of weeks. For a very long time I deluded myself with might-have-beens, now I know they were nothing but fantasies. I never would have fitted in in a regular school and deep down I guess I've always known it, the constant moving just served as an acceptable excuse. As unusual as it was, my childhood was suited to who I was. A permanent school would have freed me from the stigma of being always the new kid in town, that's true, but it also would have meant spending years at the mercy of the same bullies, of the same teachers who resented me for being a smart mouth, for daring to disrupt their perfect little classrooms with questions and ideas, for being different in ways that had nothing to do with my family or my upbringing, for being me. While I longed for the ideal normal life everyone kept talking about I am now aware that it would have been worse for me, not better. A best case scenario would have had me turning into Alec by the age of twelve, a worst case scenario would have caused me to self destruct long before that.
Even though I never had a chance to attend school on a regular basis I was just sixteen when I was admitted to Rainier. By that time I had lived in each one of the five continents for at least a year, I had learned things that are not part of any school plan, I spoke four languages fluently and I had been to most of the places my professors had only read about. I had seen two Summer Solstices in a single year --Naomi enjoys cold and wet about as much as I do so we never did two Winter Solstices-- and I had celebrated my birthday in both the spring and the fall... something I found fascinating when I was five. I learned about Egypt in Cairo and of China on the Great Wall. I discovered Darwin's theories for the first time when I was eight... on a little boat headed for the Galapagos Islands and I had an old Shaman take me under his wing when I was nine. I never read much into that until after Incacha died. I had some great times growing up, and the fact is that all of those revolved around things that wouldn't have been part of a normal childhood, with a normal family living in a normal town.
I'm not saying my childhood was wonderful, far from it. I wasn't sheltered like other children and that caused me to see things most kids can't even imagine... or at least most kids from developed countries. When we traveled we went native and that meant that if there was poverty around us we lived in poverty. We weren't playing tourist and seeing the world through the windows of five stars hotels or turning up our noses at the way in which other people live, like way too many of those who travel abroad do. That caused me to learn that death is a part of life at an early age --and I also learned that it's not just something that happens to the elderly who have had a long and wonderful life-- I saw starvation, I saw injustice and I saw exploitation. I saw first hand things that most kids learn from watching the Discovery Channel, if at all.
I must also admit that the bad times were not confined to what I saw. Naomi's frequent absences were painful and they caused me to end up in some circumstances that were not so great. I was forced to grow up too soon in too many ways, to fend for myself at an age in which most kids are still happy to have mommy tuck them in at night and are confident that she will actually be there to do it. I realize that now --and maybe that's why I was so adamant when Giles thought of leaving Buffy a couple of years ago-- but in the end the life I led brought me here and I wouldn't trade that for memories of a stable home.
I am where I need to be and the path I took to get here is all but irrelevant. Now if only I could get my father to understand that fact.