Friday, 29 March 2013

raising a baby abroad

When I was young I always knew I wanted children and I would let my young imagination run wild, picturing my kids running around the backyard, going to school and climbing trees.  Of course, the images of this new family that filled my daydreams were always set in some generic US town. I never thought I would be raising a family far away from my own home, in a new country. 

Once I moved to the UK and started settling into life with Mr M, I began to realise that England was quickly becoming my home. Before long, I was joking with my family about how funny it would be if my kids had cute English accents and played cricket. That once amusing thought is now a reality as my little English lad Nate is growing up fast and absorbing his environment at a rapid pace. 

When I became pregnant with Nate, I thought about what it would be like to raise a child in a different country from where I grew up. It is certainly not an unusual thing to do. In fact, it is extremely common in both the US and the UK because of the large influx of immigrants to both countries over the last century. And in truth the differences between the US and the UK aren't great, so my challenges are minimal compared to people moving from further places, both culturally and geographically. 

But there are still subtle things that I am having to consider as an American expat raising a British baby - things that I didn't even think about when I became pregnant, probably because they are so small in the big scheme of things. 

Things like choosing my vocabulary appropriately. When we are standing at the window on a Friday morning on recycling day and I say, "ooooh, look at the garbage truck outside", should I be calling it the "rubbish lorry" instead?  When I am singing the alphabet to Nate and come to the end of it do I say X, Y, "Zee" or X, Y, "Zed"? Should I call this vegetable a zucchini or a courgette, and this one an eggplant or an aubergine? 

And what about celebrating holidays that I remember as a child? I think it is important to teach Nate about Jewish holidays like Passover and American holidays like Thanksgiving that were part of my childhood but I am struggling to figure out how to make these part of his life when they are so absent from life here.

American politics and sports also come to my mind. Even though I am not much of a sportswoman or politician, I still have basketball, baseball, ice hockey and presidential elections ingrained into my being. It feels strange to think that Nate won't know about these things unless I explicitly teach him. 

These thoughts are racing through my mind each day as we progress through the year and holidays, sports tournaments and religious celebrations pass. It makes me realise more than ever that my life with Nate is as much a learning experience for me as it is for him. While I make the effort to teach him about Yom Kippur, pumpkin pie and the different ways to pronounce alumin(i)um, he has a lot to teach me about growing up in the UK. Living as an expat and raising a British baby has its challenges, but what great challenges they are to have!

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1 comment:

  1. It's definitely a weird balance to feel out, Cheryl! Keep us posted on how you do it where you are, I'm always interested in hearing how different expats incorporate their home culture into their children's lives.