Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The road less travelled with children in tow

This is a photo of me at the base of Annapurna in Nepal taken years ago. I keep it to remind myself that I really did make it up there. I never thought I would.

Ever since I left home, I've done my best to take the road less travelled. I think when we are young and childless, the road less travelled is easy and romantic. It surely was for me.

The road less travelled when you have children is no such thing. It is scary and filled with mud puddles, and laced with the possibility of major guilt down the road. Did I do the right thing? Will my children be all right?

Our move back across the Atlantic is one such road. I have already written here about how some of the most banal tasks are new to me again after being away for so long. Learning how to write checks, remembering to tip the waitress and allowing myself to turn on red are the things keeping my days far from boring. And I can officially admit right here and now that I do not miss one thing about Italy, unless you count gorgonzola. Italy was becoming an impossible place to to live and breathe. I am not looking back longingly.

So where is that lurking mud puddle? My children are soon to start school. They will both be attending the middle school, and my youngest will be starting in an early jump start program for the kids starting in the sixth grade. My children were excellent students in their Italian schools. Straight A's (tutti ottimi). For those of you who don't know what that means in the Italian school system, particularly in the middle school, it's no small feat. Their academic challenges will likely be less than they were in Italy, which is fine since my children's English is not up to par with their Italian, and they will be partaking of the English Language Acquisition program in the local middle school. One of the many reasons that pushed us to take the road less travelled was the opportunity for my children to become truly bilingual. Being thrust into a life in another language is terrifying, frustrating, comical and exhausting. It is also one of the best things that ever happened to me. Being bilingual opens up entire parts of your brain that you didn't even know were there. Being bilingual allows you to see the world through different eyes and hear the world through different ears. I want that for my children.

There is a saying in Italian that goes, "Tra il dire e il fare, c'รจ di mezzo il mare." Between saying something and doing it lies the sea. So here's the sea. Oh please, let this be the right thing to do! Please let their first days of school not be too scary and strange! Please let them (my eldest in particular) not be kidnapped by those evil American girls (I know exactly what I would have thought upon seeing my cute Italian boy come to school when I was in th eight grade)! Please let them be accepted on the basketball team by the American boys! Please just let it all be OK, challenging and hard at times, but OK.


Fourier Analyst said...

I'm pressing my thumbs (as they say in German) for your kiddos that they have a smooth transition and I hope for you they are spared some of the worst of American public school culture (drugs, bullying, undiluted over-the-top materialism, smoking, graffiti, gangs, etc.). I know the transition can be wrenching, but I hope you have been able to instill in your littlies a strong sense of themselves so they can resist the things you have taught them not to value. Good Luck!

Greg said...

I have greatly enjoyed your last couple of posts. This one reminds me of the worry all parents carry for their matter their age. Our youngest goes off to college in Montreal. He is a "big boy" yet I find myself having the same concerns you've so skillfully and thoughtfully explored.

jennifer said...

Hi Fourier analyst- Unfortunately most of the things you mentioned are present in Italian schools as well... I'm living in a county in Colorado that's WAY UP in the mountains made up of ski resort towns, so the atmosphere is pretty laid back. Thanks for your comment about kids having a sense of themselves, which I think is key in this crazy world.
Greg- I also enjoy reading your blog, thank you for stopping by. Parenting is probably never a sure thing... what a mystery it is to me at times!

anno said...

I think that parents' dreams become their childrens' reality: that rich and wonderful experience you want for your sons is going to materialize somehow. Just be prepared for taking the trail hidden by brambles and vines. Good luck.

Carol said...

What a great post! I think my parents felt the same way when they came to America from Germany, with a kid, in 1953.

We all turned out OK, by the way.


cathouse teri said...

Everything and nothing is okay in the life of a child. But they will be fine.

Speaking from one who is always on the road Lester traveled, I can assure you that your children are made of strong enough stuff to withstand the things life throws at them.

I wonder what happens to that part of my brain I don't know exists?

Jen said...

Oh, Jennifer, it may not be and it has nothing to do with the road less traveled. Having been a middle school teacher for many, many years, I know it can be a hard road for ALL children, and that actually makes it easier for those coming in new, because it's ALL new for everyone and they're all struggling. So try to let your boys know that when/if they run into obstacles - it's hard for the American kids, too.

And you're right... your older boy may create quite a stir.

If by any chance they're in the Fort Collins schools, e-mail me - my nephews are there in accelerated programs, too and they're simply delightful boys - one going into 6th and the other going into 8th.

Rebecca said...

I hope it all goes well for your boys Jennifer - and I think it's a wonderful gift you've given them - not only bilingual but bicultural. They're very lucky!!