Monday, September 24, 2012

Culture Shock: When You Realize Your Kids are Different

It first happened when we were returning to the U.S. from Guatemala with our then 2-year-old son.  We  arrived in Atlanta and while waiting for our luggage at baggage claim, I took our son to the bathroom.  On the way back, we pass someone drinking from a water fountain.  My son stopped so quickly I almost fell over him.  His mouth opened and his eyes grew wide.  "What is that, Mommy?" he asked pointing to the water fountain.  "You mean the water fountain?" I asked.  "Water fountain," my son sighed as if I had just told him it was the stairway to heaven.  I couldn't believe it.  I hadn't realized it until then that my son had never seen a water fountain, something so commonplace to me that I didn't even notice it.  He stood transfixed.  Then he looked up at me and whispered, "Can I try the water fountain?"  "Of course," I chuckled.  After he drank and slurped water down his shirt, he sprinted across the baggage claim floor shouting, "Popi!  Water fountain!  Water fountain!"  People stared at him as if he was from Mars.  I hadn't read THE book yet, (Third Culture Kids), but I had heard of it.  This must have been what they were talking about.  Things we take for granted, that are part of the background of our existence, are fresh and new in theirs.

It didn't stop with water fountains, next were mailboxes ("What are those boxes on top of those sticks in the ground?"), plastic milk jugs, and marshmallow creme.  A friend told me that ATM machines fascinated her young one, "You mean, money just falls out?"  I remember when we were returning for a year in the States and my son would be attending his first U.S. pubilc school and his first school in English.  I wanted to make sure he knew all he needed to know to enter the an American 2nd grade.  I found this great book, Home Learning Year by Year, by Rebecca Rupp, scrolled down the list and, BAM, realized that my son had never used U.S. currency.  He couldn't tell a penny from a quarter; something he would definitely need to distinguish.  Hadn't even crossed my mind.  Oops.

Melinda Shelton/ cc-by-2.0
We really try to keep our kids up on U.S. culture and nowadays with the internet they are inundated anyway.  Things still fall through the cracks.  It's not like you see water fountains on Yahoo homepage, or silly bands for that matter.  Luckily, before we left for the States, the Ambassador's 10-year-old nephew was in town for a visit and swimming at the embassy pool.  He had brought bags of silly bands, something we had never even heard of, to pass out to the clueless American kids.  "These are really popular back home," he said, "You're going to want to wear some."  God bless you, boy.  You saved me from a potential I- looked-like-a-dork-and-it's-all-your-fault-Mom bashing.

I'm sure you've got stories about your kids' culture clash.  Come on, tell us.  They're funny.  We all need a chuckle.  Beam me up, Scottie.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Postcard Poem: My Serbian Mayfield