Those were the words (in Spanish) we were hearing as we tried to explain to the school director that we would not be sending our preschool-aged daughter to school every morning. We didn't feel like it was necessary or healthy for our little girl to be away from us every morning; they thought that was really strange. We ended up being the weird foreign parents that year... all year.
"Children aren't supposed to be here. This was supposed to be a surprise for them."
I heard giggles from other moms as I blushed after hearing the teacher's words. I quickly steered my kids back out of the classroom and to our car. I'm not sure how I misunderstood the note sent home from school. I thought we were supposed to bring our kids to school in the afternoon to do a special craft with them, and I'd gotten my kids all excited about it. What I was actually supposed to do is come to school alone to do a craft that would be a surprise gift for them. Why do I still make mistakes like this in Spanish?
"Please re-do this. The syllables need to be organized differently."
I had already cut out hundreds of little squares with letters on them and organized them alphabetically. Here, at the beginning of the year, we were given sheets full of each possible syllable in Spanish. It was the parents' job to cut them out and organize them. The problem? I had no idea how to organize these many flashcards. It took several attempts, but finally my little project received the teachers' approval. For the non-foreign moms? This was just a rite of passage; every parent of a first grader knows how to do this because it's what their parents did for them. It's how children learn to read and write here.
"Your son has gotten behind in Spanish. Please work with him at home to help him catch up."
I read this note sent home from school, and then look over the 30-something pages of worksheets that we would need to do at home. I don't even understand this! What's the future going to be like if I can't even understand first grade homework here!?
All of these interactions take place in Spanish, of course. I have so many other stories like this. Being the foreign mom is rough! And, I'm really still just at the beginning of this adventure of educating kids in a foreign country! I have so much more to learn, but here are some tips I've learned so far:
1) It's ok, and understandable, that this is hard. None of the quotes above were said to me in a mean way. But, I still have felt guilty and like a bad mom and a bad missionary because of things like this. But, then I realize, of course this is hard!!! This is something new and different and unlike anything I can reference from my childhood. It's ok that it's hard.
2) You need help. Acknowledge this. Ask for help. That day that I misunderstood the note about the craft time at school? That was a bit of a turning point for me. The next day, I was at ballet class with my daughter. Three other moms from her school were there with their daughters as well. All year, I've been building friendships with these ladies. I shared with them what had happened the day before, and how being the foreign mom can be hard. They were sweet, and promised to help me in the future. After class, one of them took me to a craft shop and showed me what supplies I'd need for the craft, and told me to bring them along on the playdate we had previously arranged for the next day. While our kids played the next day, she walked me through the craft I was supposed to have made at school. It was a huge blessing and encouragement to me. And, it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't opened up to those friends. Now, they frequently check to make sure I understand announcements sent home from school!
|two of the ballet class moms that have helped me through this school year!|
4) Pray. I have many days where I feel like this is too hard. I'm sure all of you, no matter what decisions you've made regarding your kids' education, often feel the same way. I know God uses these times to draw him closer to Him as we realize our dependency on Him. I know I need to be better at praying specifically for God's help and strength as we educate our kids in Costa Rica. Just as I can't do it without these native friends, I absolutely can't do it without Him.
How do you feel as the "foreign mom" where you are? What tips have you learned through your experiences so far educating your kids overseas?