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!

The Sabbath Day

This is Ellie and her friend Jenna.  Last week these two girls were invited to represent their middle school at a swim meet in Maputo, Mozambique.  A few days before the meet, after the girls had agreed to go and we had paid all their expenses, the swimmers were told that the meet would run Friday, Saturday and Sunday and that the swimmers would be expected to compete each of the three days.

Both Jenna and Ellie come from Mormon families.  As Mormons, we believe in taking the Ten Commandments literally, and that includes the fifth commandment to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.

As soon as the girls were told that they would be expected to swim on Sunday, they agreed together (without consulting their parents) that they wouldn’t participate in the swim meet on Sunday (remember Chariots of Fire?). And they immediately let their coaches know of their decision.  That evening was the first we parents heard that the meet would include Sunday competitions and that our girls had decided not to compete.

Ironically, when Jenna’s mom and I later talked about the situation, we both agreed that, had we been told earlier, we would not have forbidden the girls from competing on Sunday; rather, we would have let the girls make their own decisions and then honor those decisions.

The day before we left for Mozambique, the coaches put added pressure on Ellie and Jenna to compete on Sunday, but the girls held their ground and maintained their morals.  And on the final day of competition, the two girls sat, bone dry, on the benches and cheered on their teammates.

As a mom, I’m proud of my daughter’s decision.  I believe that if our kids learn to be obedient in the little things, like keeping the Sabbath day holy, then hopefully they can also be obedient in the big things.

Last week, Russell M. Nelson was called as the new prophet and leader of the Mormon church.  Back in 2015, as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, President Nelson said this: “Faith in God engenders a love for the Sabbath; faith in the Sabbath engenders a love for God. A sacred Sabbath truly is a delight.”

I believe that keeping the Sabbath day holy is one way we can show our love for God.

Kudos girls!!!