Kids teach you all the time, anywhere
I’ve seen several blog posts where mums list a few things about life that their kids have taught them. Usually, they’re touching things about rediscovering themselves and their marriages. All of which is true!
But I think that expat kids teach you even more. Not only do they introduce you to a new dimension of yourself. They also teach you how to relate to others, the world, and the place you’re living in a meaningful and mindful way.
10 things my expat kids have taught me
So without further due, let’s get down to the 10 things my expat kids have taught me. They’re in no particular order. This is not a top 10 list, but rather an account of the things that came to my mind when I thought about all that I have learnt in the past five years:
- Kids brains are absolutely amazing. We all know how amazing kid’s minds are. Parents from all around the world are mesmerised by how much their kids learn and absorb every day. But if you take an expat kid, it’s like their brains are on steroids! Expat kids are very often immersed in (at least) one other language different from their parent’s mother tongue. Take my kids: they wake up and I greet them with a “Hola!”, they then go to school and greet a passerby saying “Bonjour!”. Later at school, they tell everyone “Hello!”, and back home when Dad arrives, they switch to “Ciao!”. I find that fascinating!
- Home is where you raise your kids. Expats can often suffer from homesickness and culture shock. They sometimes feel in a sort of expat limbo, as if they’re not here, nor there. Homeless from an emotional standpoint. Well, when my kids were born (and got used to them being around) I figured that home was where they’d grow up. Where we would share our own wacky traditions, as well as those of the host country. So, to me, home is everywhere and nowhere at the same time, and it actually feels good!
- I am incredibly resilient. If my expat kids have taught me anything is that I am incredibly resourceful and resilient. Becoming a mother in a foreign land, with no family and friends to lend a hand is incredibly hard. And the expat life as they grow doesn’t make it easier. Spouses (or yourself) often need to travel for their work, leaving only one parent around to do all the parenting. With time I realised that support networks don’t have to be composed fully of people and I developed systems to help me create my own.
- The names of a bunch of childhood diseases in four languages. Let’s face it. Kids get sick. Often. Like all the time. And you have to take them to the doctor. These doctors don’t necessarily speak your mother tongue (they probably don’t), so you’ll have to learn how to say chicken pox, tonsillitis, ear infection, flu, cold and countless more in a new language. Make sure you make a list of them if you’re moving soon. They’ll come in handy!
- You can bond with people even if you don’t speak the same language. Next time you’re at a park with your kids in a foreign country observe them closely. They can form playgroups and communicate with other kids even if they don’t share the same language. They just communicate however they can and keep playing. And neither of them is bothered by it as if it was natural to just play with whoever you like and it didn’t matter what language they spoke. And if they learn this, they might as well realise that neither does the colour of their hair, eyes, skin… Truly inspiring.
- To let go of things. Expat kids are used to moving around. Most of them will relocate a few times during their childhoods. It’s happened twice to us so far. And every time they just let go. They don’t look back. They go to their new house and make it their new home. Of course, they will miss their friends, and tell you so. That’s only natural. But just as easily they’ll make new friends and be as happy as clams. Our attachment to things prevents us from being happy, and expat kids are the living proof of it.
- No matter where we go, we’ll always find our next favourite thing to eat. That’s a fact. Even when we’re on holidays our kids find new things to be fascinated with and enjoy eating. This holds true, especially for cookies! We went from palmiers, to custard creams, to ladyfingers. I can’t decide myself which ones I like best. Maybe palmiers. Definitely palmiers.
- To embrace change. This one goes along with the one about letting go of things. Our kids always seem to embrace change with an open mind. They may feel a bit apprehensive for a while, but they’re never blocked by fear of the unknown. They make the best of the situation they’re faced with. And so should we all!
- Making new friends is easier than you’d think. One of the main complaints of expat mums (and all expats for that matter) is the difficulty of making new friends and socialising. Well, let me tell you: take a look at your kids! It’s amazing how quickly they can hit it off with new little people wherever they go. Even children they meet randomly at a park and that they’ll never see again. They have a completely open-minded approach to meeting new friends. Which is definitely something I have to work on (and you?).
- Put the phone down and engage. Ah, expat mums. Our phones are like an extension of our beings (or at least it is for me). It’s our main way of communication with family, friends from wherever we are, friends from wherever we were last year and old time friends. But every now and then I find myself in the situation in which my kids have been talking to me and I had been staring at my phone not listening to a word they were saying. When that happens, I force myself to put the phone down and engage fully with them. Look at their eyes when they’re speaking and answer back. We’ve established the rule of putting the phone away when we’re having dinner, so there’s no TV and no phones, just all of us chatting and engaging.
Teachings for now and for the future
So these are 10 things that my expat kids taught me. I think they’re incredibly valuable lessons that definitely made me a better person. However, we should remember them, maybe even write them down (thank you, blog) so that we can teach them back to them so that when they grow up, they can be better people even before their children teach them a whole lot of important life lessons.