I think sometimes as adults living overseas, we don't always think about the "little things" that our kids may miss out on or not understand when we come back to the states. Yes, the big things are always in our minds- missing precious time with family: birthday parties, holidays etc. Other small things at least for me are in my mind- things like playing team sports, beach trips, Chick-fil-A. I have to constantly remind myself that for the most part, the things that I'm worried about them missing, are things that I miss FOR them but they may not really ever know that they are missing out on. Yes, the US of A is a fabulous place, but so are lots of other places around the world. Our kids are getting a fabulous world view through their overseas experiences. Actually, one of my big prayers for our time in the states this go round, was that the girls would have a fabulous time with family and friends in the states, but that they would truly miss our overseas home and look forward to going back. I've been so thankful to see how God is answering that prayer. It does my heart so much good to hear Naomi describing "my home in Lebanon" to her cousins or to hear the girls say they miss the food or the beaches or our friends or various places around the country. OF COURSE, it's never easy to leave family behind. There will always be tears at the airport no matter how long we've stayed or how long it will be until we come back- two months or two years, goodbyes stink and always will. We do what we can to prepare our kids for the emotional roller coaster, but a big part of it is just accepting those emotions as a part of the life we lead.
We also do our best to prepare our kids for the "reverse culture shock" they will experience when we come back to the states. Jason is better at this than me having experienced it himself as a child. He remembers coming back to America as a 6th grader for the first time in 4 years and having no idea who Michael Jackson was (in 1985)- not good for a 6th grader trying not to stand out... For me, some of the biggest reverse culture shock that I experience is in the grocery store- specifically the cereal aisle and the frozen food aisle. WHO KNEW there were so many cereals??!! Oh my word! And the freezer section! I avoided it completely my first month of grocery shopping- entirely too many choices!! Frozen, pre-made PB&J's?? REALLY!? Sorry, I digress..
Anyway, We knew that there would be challenges for the girls- especially for Abbey and Maddie in 6th and 4th grades. We did our best to prepare them for the fact that they would be different than the other kids in various ways but that different does not equal bad. For the most part we have been so pleased. They have shown such maturity and have done such a good job of just jumping right into things. We've had lots of firsts like basketball games, softball games, science fairs, spelling bees. It's mostly been a lot of fun! Thankfully, the culture shock that the girls have experienced has mostly just provided good laughs for us all. Here are a few examples...
During their first few weeks at school (in early October), either Abbey or Maddie came home from school one day and said, "WHO is Ole Miss and WHAT is the SEC??" ( They know Justin Beiber but I didn't think to educate on college football in the south.... oops)
Naomi kept talking about wanting some "peetoes".... (cheetos)
We have thunderstorms in Beirut, but mostly it's just heavy rain. For the most part, the thunder and lightning are way out over the Mediterranean and we don't really hear it. Plus, the city is so loud anyway, that I don't know if we would hear it. A few weeks ago during a pretty big Memphis thunderstorm, there was a huge clap of thunder just after the girls had gone to bed. Abbey, came running in to the living room and said, "Mom, was that a bomb?" (No, sweet Lebanese girl, not in Memphis, a gunshot maybe, but not a bomb)
(A little background for this one- one of our favorite places to eat in Cordova is called Fox Ridge Pizza) In early February, Naomi came home from school and in very excited and animated Naomi style began telling me about her day. "Mom" she says, "We have to look out for the fox ridge!" Huh? "The fox ridge is going to tell us when spring will come!" AHH! Groundhog day! Didn't think to tell the girls about that somewhat random American holiday! Me- "you mean the groundhog, Naomi" "YES, the groundhog!" Sweet girl- too many new terms to remember!
A few weeks ago Naomi and I were having some quiet mother/daughter time after school. The big girls were at various sports practices and we were sitting at the table painting and coloring. "Mom," she says "Did you know that in a few weeks we have to watch out for the little green man who will try and get us?" again, HUH? Thankfully, my mom was there and she quickly realized that she was talking about the St. Patrick's Day leprechaun! And, yes we all remembered to wear our green so nobody was "gotten".
There's one more story that I can think of from our tornado adventures a few weeks ago, but I think I'll save that for a separate post. Mostly, we've learned (and I think/hope the girls are learning too) that just like with culture shock overseas when you're learning a new language and new culture, you have to be able to laugh at yourself and enjoy certain moments together as a family. We are constantly learning whether in this culture or another and we might as well have fun with it!