Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I will never be the same here.

Jennifer over at Between Pee and Kimchee has a post up about her child being embarrassed that they are different than the Korean kids where they live, and that they are English.

This set off about a thousand nerves for me, and I left a comment that was a little long, and still did not feel finished with the issue. This is one of the things that I have had to think about a great deal for a lot of years now. My eldest has been embarrassed about me since she was four years old, blessedly not all the time, but definitely some of the time. This comes with the territory, although usually not so young. It can be hard to be the kids of a strong willed and determined Mom. This has however been exacerbated by the life that we have chosen to live. Going travelling on the boat was something that she loved and still frequently wishes we were doing, but she found the reactions of everyone around us profoundly difficult. The kids thought she was nuts, or they felt sorry for her, or they just didn't understand why we would like to raise our kids knowing that there is more to the world than southern Ontario and brownies. Even if some of it is uncomfortable.

My sister and I frequently hassled our parents that they used to drive us through the slums of wherever we went. They didn't do this on purpose, but the simple fact of driving through a new city is that the map doesn't show which are the crappy neighbourhoods and which are the nice ones. In retrospect, I think that this is a good thing that we did this, although I remember a stretch of Washington D.C. that was distinctly scary.

Growing up in Southern Ontario, or any reasonably affluent part of the western world, lets you think that the whole world is just like your world. Although this is alleviated marginally if you ride the subway in Toronto, especially outside of rush hour, when you rapidly realise that English is the minority language being spoken on the car....

It lets you think that skating lessons and brownies and school and whining that you have peanut butter not salami in your lunch is normal globally, that this is how everyone lives and how everyone thinks.

I digress.....these differences in the children's upbringing are difficult for my kids. Here we cannot get it right, we had the same problem in Toronto as well, they were always a little different. At swimming lessons they were undoubtedly the most capable swimmers in the class in the sense of handling themselves in the water. They could manage snorkels and masks, getting in and out of boats, swimming with lifeys and without, managing waves, up to three feet, they knew about currents and drift, they had swum with sea turtles, and fish and barracuda and sharks, yet they persistently failed their swimming levels because their flutter kick wasn't olympic class.

They are in a bind because they are proud and pleased with who they are and what they know, they have enjoyed it and do enjoy it and are aware that they have skills and knowledge that the other kids do not, yet, they also just want to blend in. To not have to explain themselves.

I also refuse to blend in, this is no surprise, I never have tried. But I think that it is important that I do not attempt to blend in, if I were to try to hide who I am and where we are from and what we have done and are doing, I would be doing my kids a disservice along with myself. I will not have them growing up feeling that there is anything to be ashamed of that we are different, nor will I state in any way, either in words or dress or behaviour that being different is bad. It is not. It is profoundly important that we humans are diverse, therein lies our strength.

That doesn't always make it easy though.

This whole issue was illuminated when the eldest was packing to go off on this field trip, she wanted only one bag, because all the other kids will have only one bag. Do we bring sleep toys or not? We decided not, but today all the other kids were hugging theirs as they walked down the street. To wave her off at the bus or not? I was instructed to see what all the other kid's parents were doing, and to do the same. Eeeh gads.

We are probably going to have the man drop the youngest off at school tomorrow, and we will not see the bus off, it is too difficult, and she finds it easier to say goodbye to him than me, she is more used to him going off to work....

Finally at the same time I am reading the blog updates of two people on their boats in George Town in the Bahamas, and the family the husband met briefly have written about leaving BCN and sailing out into the Med. You can read about their trip here. I miss my boating life so much. Shit.

Determinedly cheering up here, Festa Major is this weekend which will include a 10 or 15 Km orienteering race which the husband is planning to do up and down the mountain, also there will be gegants which are giant ambulating puppets, castellars, people standing on each others shoulders until they are nine or ten stories/people high, and a giant paella cooked for the entire town, in a pan that looks like it will be about 15 feet across. And the ladies from work and I will be going for lunch on Thursday...

Photos coming to a blog near you....


Boo and Trev said...

I have found that they do eventually get over being embarrased by you. I found this out when Erin was about 14 and I was picking herand her friend up from Karate. There was a TV programme I really wanted to see and they were taking ages farting about. I peered through the doors and I thought they had finished they had all gone to the side of the room. I rushed in and said Come on Erin I need to get home for "I'm a celebrity get me out of here" The entire class stared at me. They hadn't finished! They still had to do their stupid bowing thing at the end! Luckily, Erin and her friends thought it was hysterical.
Hope the girls enjoy their trip!
Anyway, I think it's the law that one should embarras one's kids!

Beth said...

Yes, children do want to "blend in" - and not be different. But it sounds like your girls already appreciate the way of life you have given them. As they get older, they will appreciate it even more.
You're doing a fabulous job!

Dorky Dad said...

This was a very good post. But you know, I think that even if you did stay home in Ontario and lived a "normal" life there, your kids would still find some way to be embarrassed by you, because they're your kids, and that's what they're supposed to do. I think y'all are doing something pretty darn cool.

oreneta said...

Boo: I bet she and her friends still laugh about that....after seening you with your kids, I have tried to emulate you in your use of honesty and humour with them....it looks like a good recipe.

And yeah, I think it is a law somewhere that we have to embarass our kids at least a bit.

Beth: Thank you, it is a balancing act they have to discover between being one of the tribe and being themselves...alsways a difficult line to find.

DD: Your absolutely right, they were embarassed by me there, and they will be again, just the potential for embarassment is so much greater here....thanks for the comment.

oreneta said...

Hey DD: did you see the baby emu pics?

Helen said...

I'm with Boo on this (not surprising really) and do feel that one of a parents' main roles in life should be to embarass their children. it sets them up in life for when they later make fools of themselves. The not fitting in thing is difficult. I moved continent at 8 years old and definitely didn't fit into the first (fairly working class) school I went to. Then i went to boarding school for the first 4 years of secondary school so didn't fit in at home much either as the schoolfriends were 23 miles away. The latter I was determined not to repeat so my kids lived within walking distance of school. For the rest - kids are very adaptable, and if you have to follow the flock on the little things (number of bags etc) nevertheless they will have a sense of themselves which will enable them to be themselves and do what is their thing when bigger decisions have to be made. But being an individual gives kids a good role model, being yourself and not a clone gives them a better one because it enables them to see that being themselves is more important then being a part of the crowd, and sometimes that can be critical. This is turning into a rant, so I will stop.

Beth said...

ya know what Oreneta? One day, your kids will see the advantage that they have over so many other kids....they get to see life as it really is, not through rose colored glasses. It's important to know that you're not alone in the world and that the world does not revolve around you. there are so many people who have it better than you and there are so many people who have it worse off than you.

I think you are doing wonderful things for your kids...teaching them things they could never get anywhere else.