My kids have been through a lot in the past ten months. Last June, Jason was officially accepted into the Foreign Service and our lives have been a whirlwind ever since.
In August, my kids lost their dad for four months while he was in training in Washington, DC. Plus they had to live with a whiny, frustrated, stressed out mom during that time. In the midst of that, two of my kids went through periods of transition that are hard and frightening for all kids; Ben started junior high and Elizabeth started 1st grade.
Then in December, just before Christmas, their worlds were completely uprooted. They said good-bye to their friends, their cat, their bedrooms and left their comfortable home and familiar neighborhood for a foreign country. They went from being just like everyone else in white-bread Mormon Utah, to a country where they are the minority, they don’t speak the language and they’re stared at whenever they leave the house.
About the time they got over their jet lag, they started attending a private international school. Whereas, public schools in Utah do their best to prepare kids for college, their private school in Taipei prides itself in preparing students for the Ivy League. The amount of catchup my kids have had to do has been unbelievably stressful. My 5th grader spends 1-3 hours a night on homework, while my 7th and 9th graders spend 2-5 hours studying every night. Their self-esteems have taken enormous hits. The academic competition they face each day is mind-boggling.
If that weren’t enough, the have faced prejudice for the first time in their lives over their race, their nationality and their religion. One child has faced a pretty fierce bully. During the first week of school, three of my kids came to me, independent of each other, expressing shock at the language that students use in the hallways; language that they had never heard in public school in the U.S. Both of my sons have come to me, asking what words mean; terms that I didn’t know the meaning of until after I was married.
In the four months that we have lived in Taiwan, my kids have been more frightened and more lonely than they have ever been in their lives. They have all come home from school numerous times in tears. As a parent, it’s pretty tough to watch.
All of these trials notwithstanding, my kids are making it. As a parent, I am in awe of their strength. I don’t know if I could have faced the challenges they are encountering each day when I was their ages. I am so proud of them. They are brave, they are smart and they are good.
My book club is currently reading the parenting book Girls Will Be Girls: Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters by JoAnn Deak. Dr. Deak wrote the following: The most healthy and successful human being is one who can deal with ambiguity, figure out how to negotiate situations where the path or outcome is not clear. Probably the worst thing we can do as adults to handicap our girls [and boys, I might add], is to encourage them in any way to want or need things in total order or control. They’re already inclined that way. The best thing we can do is to help them learn to grow in a climate where chaos – internal or external – is always in the three-day forecast.
I tell my kids often that one day they will thank us for this experience. I’m hopeful that they will, but maybe they won’t. But I have to say that they are learning how to deal with ambiguity and chaos. They are learning how strong they can really be. They are learning skills that will make them better adults and more aware as human beings. They are taking a crash-course in resiliency.
I’m proud to be their mom. (But, man am I stressed out!)