The only thing that my upbringing has in common with my children’s is that we share the same accent. What they experience and how they process the culture we are living in is strikingly different from anything I dealt with as a child. Am I asking too much of them? To blend into a French speaking school, make friends in a foreign culture and live life in a place where their skin color is the vast minority? Friends who have followed our journey know that I have asked these questions for a long time. Here’s my final answer…I don’t think so. I knew only two kids when I was growing up who were not born and bred Americans. I never asked them questions about their home culture or even made the mental connection that their life was totally different than mine. I possessed a type of insensitivity I don’t think my children will ever have because their life experiences won’t allow it.
There is an undying beauty in the difficulty of living outside our home culture. How privileged we are, band of expats, to be living our lives this way. Our children are growing up with an understanding of the world that is unique to those who live this kind of life. Yes, this type of living breaks your heart and makes it fuller all at the same time… but it’s worth it in the end. I can’t tell you that my children will be better people because I raised them here. What I can tell you is that my children already see the world through a lens totally different from kids growing up in my home culture, the good ol’ USA.
An American upbringing like mine is not the way forward for our little expat family. This makes me their mini America. It’s a somewhat daunting task, the “Americanization” of my kids. They learn about Christmas traditions, chocolate chip cookies, the Fourth of July, snow, and who the President is from my husband and me. What a task, representing an entire culture to our kids. We hope for the best. We hope that we are giving them much more than an Americanization. We hope that we are giving them the skills they need to become people who possess empathy and understanding no matter what culture they are in or where they travel in life. I believe the path we chose for them, as unique and different as it is, holds great things for their futures.