Things Missed and Things Gained

This is a recent picture of Ellie:

She’s 13 years old. Like a typical American teenager, she took this selfie on her iPhone.

When we moved overseas in 2010, Ellie was 6 years old:

Ellie has lived over half of her life outside of the U.S.  As a result, she has missed out on some things.  She has rarely ridden a bike, she has never snow skied, and she doesn’t remember American trick-or-treating.

Thanks to the proliferation of American media and the Internet, she gets a fair amount of American pop culture; however, she misses some of the nuances that are second nature to most American teens.

Someone recently gave her a Tootsie Pop that they had ordered from the U.S. on Amazon.  Ellie showed it to me and asked me what it was.  What American kid doesn’t know what a Tootsie Pop is?  I explained to her that it is a sucker with a Tootsie Roll in the middle.  She wasn’t exactly sure what a Tootsie Roll was and by my description, assumed it was regular milk chocolate.

When she was 12 years old, and we were back in the U.S. for a few weeks in the summer, Ellie showed me a dime and asked me what it was called.  I told her it was a dime and she asked me how much it was.  When I told her that a dime is 10 cents, she asked how much 10 cents is in Rand (South African currency).  Imagine, a 12 year-old American kid not knowing what a dime is!  But if a kid has had very little exposure to U.S. currency, it makes sense that she wouldn’t understand terms like quarter, dime and nickel.

So yes, Ellie has missed some things growing up overseas; but she has gained other things.  And I was reminded of one those things on Saturday.

Ellie had been wanting to have her whole grade over to our house for a pool and waterslide party.  We finally got around to planning it and about 20 middle schoolers swam, slid and ate at our house for four hours on Saturday.  As I was making food that morning before the party began, Ellie saw me slicing some salami and asked me what I was going to do with it.  I told her I was planning to put it in the pasta salad.

I loved her reply, “Mom!  You can’t put it in the pasta!  There are going to be Jewish and Muslim kids at the party!  You can’t put pork in the salad!”

Ellie has a world-view and sensitivity that she would never have gained had she stayed in Utah her whole life.  She has grown up around Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and Muslims; Asians, Indians, Africans and Europeans.  She has often been the only American or the only Christian in a group.  And she’s comfortable in that kind of setting.

For all of the times I have been shocked at her lack of understanding of little American nuances, more often I am in awe of her global understanding. And I think it’s fair to assume that moving to Turkey 6 months from now will broaden her understanding even further.

It will be fun to watch!

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2 comments

  1. Houston Harris · February 26

    What a great post! I share similar concerns for my little ones, and I love your perspective.

  2. Carolyn Hamilton · February 26

    I LOVE your insights. Growing up in New York myself, and raising half our kids in Boston, I miss this SO much. Like everything good, it requires sacrifice, but I feel our Utah raised younger kids are missing far more than our older Boston kids. Being color blind – loving, and embracing differences is a gift your children will always have, and one they could not receive in our Wonder bread community of Cedar Hills! I admire your courage, strength, and perspective!

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