Thursday, November 20, 2008

Polishing My Children's Americanism

Moody asked: How is growing up in Poland going to affect your kids (meaning what kind of person they will become), vs if they were growing up in the US?

My kids won't be as used to meeting and making new friends. Their first three years of elementary school are spent with the same teacher. Their first six years are spent with the same set of kids. They are not forced into a new environment every year. I both love and hate this. Still, my kids are pretty outgoing, and I hope they can hold on to that throughout their lives.

My kids will (do) have stronger shoulders and backs than American kids. There are no desks, just tables and chairs, so the kids have to carry all their books and supplies to and from school every day. Now that Evie is in fourth grade, she changes classrooms every lesson (all the same kids stay together, they just move from room to room) and lugs all her books around to each one.

My kids eat fewer processed foods. They don't have all the interesting and fun snack foods that you have in the States. There are maybe two or three different kinds of crackers (Oh how I miss Cheez-its and Wheat Thins!) no fruit snacks and hardly any freezer stuff like corn dogs, bagel bites, and chicken nuggets. I mean, they have chicken nuggets of some sort, but like a tiny box of them. But I think I wouldn't buy them much even if I lived in the States.

My kids will never learn how to drink from a drinking fountain. Seriously. They love them so much and practice every time we see one when we're in the States, but they both still are about on the 18 month old level (loud slurping noises, tongue often seen outside of mouth [lick, lick] water all down chin/in nose etc.) I've demonstrated countless times, but really, how do you explain, "purse your lips, sort of close the back of your throat with your tongue and then suck a little bit at a time. . .?" It takes loads of practice. (nearest drinking fountain is in the Freiberg, Germany temple)

My kids will always get an A in their English classes. Last week David had a substitute in his English class and she was holding up pictures of animals and the kids were supposed to call out the name in English. Amidst all the calls of "Dack!" There was one little boy who called out, "It's a duck!" The teacher stopped, put down the picture and said, "David!! Do you know how to speak English?" (only she used a slang word for talk which means more like chatter or blabber or something) And she was so excited when he said he could (but she kept speaking to him in Polish about it, even though he answered her in English).

My kids might stand out more than kids in America in terms of their culture and religion, and learn to defend and talk about it at an earlier age. Everything from why they aren't bundled like an Eskimo to why they don't want any tea, thanks, to why they don't attend religion classes etc. Evie has had a teacher ask her how she knows that her church is true and after Evie explained about the Holy Ghost, her teacher told her that those are just her own thoughts and feelings. She has had a caring friend ask why she doesn't pray, and has explained that she DOES pray, just in a more "talking to God" sort of a way. Since then she has had enough birthday parties with blessings said over the food that all her friends understand that she does pray. And more often than they do. (I know kids everywhere have some of these opportunities, of course)
When we visit Greg's parents (they are Catholic) we always ask a blessing on the food. His dad calls on one of us, my father and mother-in-law never say the prayers, but my FIL always lets us know that this is how it should be (meaning that even though they don't do it themselves, and never have, he feels that it is right). We also read scriptures and have family prayer with them in the evenings and they are surprised and delighted by how much the kids understand.

My kids will have to work harder at honesty. Honesty is just not highly valued in this country yet. There is still lots of corruption left over from Communism and the "take what you can get by whatever means necessary" attitude is still very prevalent. My children stick out like a sore thumb on this issue, and I know they will have loads of temptation (I know they would in the States, too, but for sure it will be harder here). I think they're up for the challenge, though. I wrote about dishonesty in Poland/the kid's school here.

So these aren't maybe about what kind of people my kids will be because of growing up in Poland, but it hopefully gives you an idea. I hope that my kids will be both tough and tolerant. Tough enough to stand up for themselves with all the teasing and trials that will come from having a Mormon American background in such a Polish Catholic country and that they will learn love and tolerance for the really interesting religious beliefs and customs of the people around them.

23 comments:

Heather said...

I loved your drinking fountain descriptions!!
What I love about our concept of testimony is that is supposed to be "just (our) own thoughts and feelings," that is so great that your daughter can articulate that to an adult.
The honesty issue is similar in Ukraine. That is probably the most foreign concept for my husband to adapt to culturally.

Annette Lyon said...

This is fascinating. The first one (same classmates each year) is something I had when we lived in Finland. It was a bit of a shock to my system and my social skills to return to the States--to junior high--and suddenly not only have a new set of classmates for the first time in three years but to have a new set EVERY class, every hour.

And on the honesty thing, my parents have said the same thing about Russian Saints coming to the temple--that honesty has been one of the biggest hurdles for them.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Really interesting, thanks. I'm a big supporter of kids growing up where they are in a minority... I think it makes them understand their own values better and learn to defend them. Your children will have great memories.

McEwens said...

Lisa, this is QUITE interesting! The water fountain, the honesty, the schools, the foods.. I love it all!!

Heidi Ashworth said...

I love hearing about your life in Poland! I am sure there are many pros to your kids NOT growing up in America. We are so self absorbed here, we don't know much of what is going on in the rest of the world. I once spent one week in England and was amazed at how aware they all were of everything going on all over the world. Smart.

Sue Q said...

Ha, HA! NOW I know what to get you for Christmas!

And here's a thought....how would Evie like a pen pal? My Emma is in fourth grade as well, and later this year she has to research a country for her 4th grade project and...Bing, bodda-bing, how cool would it be if she had a first hand account from someone who lives there??!!

And what an amazing missionary opportunity you have with your in-laws! Every day, we pray that people across the world will open their hearts to the gospel. Now we have someone specific to add to those prayers!

Lara said...

Absolutely fascinating to read about. I love Eastern Europe, but I totally agree about the honesty issue. It sounds like you're doing a wonderful job raising your children.

jackie said...

Ummm, hope it is okay to comment--you probably hate me and all... but that post was sooooo awesome! I loved every bit of it. Yes, lots of the issues are the same as you mentioned, but living in a differnt country will always add a bit of a different twist! your kids will be amazingly resilant and have so much to share with everyone---polish and american! Wonderful!

Corina said...

You and Greg are living the dream that Vaughn and I always had...to give our children the opportunity to grow up in another country, and to realize that the American way is not the only way. Way to go!

Becky said...

My husband is wildly jealous of your family, you know. He still harbors dreams of us up and moving to Germany someday.

JustRandi said...

Send me your address. I am sending you some Cheez-its immediately. I have no idea how you and your kids have survived this long.

*MARY* said...

Are you SURE you're not living in China? Because every single one of these sounds like you are, from the same set of classmates to the corruption of communism. Even the absence of drinking fountains and the wondering why you aren't wearing layers and layers of clothing. Wow, who knew these two countries could have so much in common? Or maybe every country in the world is like this, with one exception, the good old US of A.

Jessica said...

I found your blog on Mormon Mommy Blogs. Thanks so much for sharing your stories with all of us!

Trying to Stay Calm! said...

I agree, very interesting! Thanks! Hope your day is as beautiful as you are! ♥ Hugs!

Kazzy said...

I am so incredibly envious that your kids are bilingual. What a cool thing. The honest comment was... well, honest. I know there are similar issues in China where my friend lives. She said it is so important to be successful that people have learned to take whatever steps needed. So interesting. Thanks, Lisa. You are the best. And that is the truth!

Moody said...

Thanks for answering my question. I find reading about your life in another country fascinating. The two things that surprised me: drinking fountains and the honesty issue (I went and read the other post about it). The funniest thing: "English" classes! Thanks for posting about the challenges and differences.

Anne said...

LOVE the title!

Heather of the EO said...

Such an interesting post. I love learning about how things roll somewhere other than here.

And yes, bilingualness is way cool.

MelancholySmile said...

Wow, I find all of this incredibly fascinating. And no drinking fountains? Do you carry water bottles everywhere?

Liz said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts - SO interesting.

Erin said...

This is so interesting. I wish my kids could have experiences like this sometimes that would introduce them to new cultures and ideas.

Alison Wonderland said...

Wow, very cool. I gotta say, when I saw that question I thought it was kind of stupid. Who knew your answer would be so interesting.

Marivic_Little GrumpyAngel said...

Lisa, this is so fascinating! I think your kids are very lucky to be exposed to life outside of the US. They will have a more open view of the world and life. I want to ask you though if your kids feel more like Americans or Polish. My kids are exposed to Filipino culture but they are very American. So I was wondering if it's the same with your kids or if they are even aware of culture stuff like that.