12 ways growing up abroad is ruining my daughter’s life
After living abroad for a year and a half now (in the mexican caribbean and the marshall islands) with my 7 year old daughter, and after some pretty crazy adventures, and plans to continue raising her abroad well into the future, i have compiled a list of the many reasons this has ruined my daughter’s life forever.
i have ruined my daughter’s life because…
1. she gets confused as to what language to speak, or sing, or write. she has to remember who she is talking to and speak the appropriate language. she thinks and operates in another language now, and has had to overcome the hurdle of not knowing but learning the language, and figuring out how to rise above language barriers and find a common humanitarian commonality from which to make friends foreign to her until she could speak. this will for sure work to her disadvantage. as a child, when continuing to make diverse friends internationally, as a teenager when remembering that all humans are equal, and also later in life in graduate school or her professional job, which will most likely at least require bilingualism by then, and if not, will favor trilingualism as a unique ability and necessary standard in the global workplace. she might even get paid more (eek).
2. on weekends instead of watching TV she is snorkeling the open ocean, exploring cenotes, hiking ancient ruins, and trekking pacific islands. god, the nerve. to be outside adventuring, exercising, discovering nature coming to life right before your very eyes, touching it, smelling it, hearing it . i mean tv is so much better. i wish we had one.
3. her best friend is her mom. seriously guys, how embarassing. well not when your mom packs picnics of mangos and fresh juices in the bike basket and rides you to your faorite snorkel cove where you love to jump in and feed the black and yellow fishies tortillas and then hunt for iguanas and jump off the high rocks into the ocean. not when mommy rubs coconut oil on you before bed every night and spends all day teaching in the classroom right next to yours, refills your nalgene on hot hikes with horchata and mayan honey, and allows you to bond in magical ways exploring the world together and living in freedom and happiness. this will suck when she is old and our magical beautiful bond remains.
4. all of her friends are mexican. and argentinian. and italian. and spanish. maybe marshallese. none are american. and none speak english. god. what a bummer. she has to understand and accept what other cultures are like at such a young age. she had to learn about global diversity and understanding and respect so early or she wouldnt have any friends. in our globalized world today, this will definitely work against her when she becomes the spokesperson for global compassion and equality because her roots of this conceptual understanding run so deep.
5. she doesnt have a big house or new car anymore. in fact she has no house and no car. she has a room and a bike that she shares with her mom. i feel bad not providing her with this american dream anymore and replacing it with an international dream of experiences rather than material items and luxurious comforts that make you comfortable but dont challenge your soul. i feel bad no longer having a house that is so big and being tied down to life and pressures and responsibilities and stressors that affect my child as well. i feel bad not having 2 living rooms and 3 bathrooms anymore so that half of the house goes to waste yet takes up room on the block that homeless people could be living in and ringing up utility bills that are more expensive than a plane ticket to another amazing paradise.
6. she doesnt have a lot of plastic toys. this is my personal favorite and source of guilt. she doesnt have that many toys here, because we need to fly here, and because this is a society not as interested in hoarding plastic crap. she has a few barbies, but not the barbie convertible, salon, restaurant, dream house, jacuzzi tub, and poodle club or whatever other barbie accessories are available. we keep it simple. get a new barbie, give one away. take the barbie to the cenote. thats her jacuzzi. brush the barbies hair. thats the salon. play with sticks and shells and sand and palm leaves and coconuts and the ocean. and do it with a smile. she has long forgotten about her entire playroom and bedroom and loft and den and living room and dining room full of dollies and horsies and blocks and brain teaser puzzles and purses and play kitchens and easels and play pianos and my little ponies and my little sparkles and whatever else i packed up in a million boxes and drove off to goodwill last year. she has never even mentioned any of it. and now we dont buy new things. instead when she is good, we go snorkeling. she now realizes that money doesnt buy these happinesses. she realizes that a new doll wont bring her the same happiness that seeing her favorite rainbow fish will. and comforts dont either. life begins at the end of your comfort zone. fostering detachment and repelling greediness, cultivating simplicity, natural love, creativity, and outdoor adventure. all tragic things that will in no way ever work to her benefit, now and later down the road. i hope she can someday forgive me for this.
7. she doesnt know about stress. her mother has time for her. she is not running here and there and going to dinner parties and dropping off at the Y and picking up documents at the attorneys and running in for dinner groceries and waiting for a redbox and getting road rage in the rush hour traffic, and being on the cell phone all the time. her mother has time for her, all day, all night. rarely stressed, no car, a basic mexican phone for safety (no smart phone), together 24 hours a day adventuring and sharing and laughing and being unstressed and happy and free. she knows flow and ease. we never rush or get stressed or upset. tranquillo. i am not too busy for her anymore because i am making money to provide our big house that we dont need and our new car that only bring conveniences and comforts of a different world and provide external happiness and accomplishment to a culture that judges each other by the size and location of their houses instead of the character of their heart.
8. she is brave. is there anything worse than a brave child? a strong, independent, intelligent, adventurer who learns from mistakes and finds answers for herself. she busts into that new school of mexicans not knowing a word of their language, and makes 10 friends in 2 seconds, she free dives the caribbean, swims in big waves, hikes barefoot, eats foreign foods, and is never ever scared or even blinks an eye. talk about adaptation and zest for life. this will suck later when she travels alone, goes off to college, or scuba dives for the first time at age 8. inside and outside, strength, courage, and independence are a triple threat. i hope i can forgive myself.
9. the world is her classroom. and nature is her playground. she is learning the stars in the sky, the way ocean tides work, the different fish that exist, that mayans sleep in hammocks and palapas stay really dry, that tortillas are made over coals and the taxi ride from town to the beach is 50 pesos for locals. she is learning what snakes are poisonous and when coconuts rot and the colors of the sky at sunset and when its about to rain and how to count to a million in sand granules and how mexicans celebrate birthdays and day of the dead and km and celcius conversions and what lychees taste like. she is so curious. and she craves more now. more knowledge, more adventure, more happiness, more beautiful life. and this is bad because it will go one and on into the future and she will end up being just like her mother. happy, adventurous, knowledgeable. about the world around her but also about inside her heart. and mind. and soul. and worse, she understands and respects nature and animals now to a ridiculous level.
10. she is thankful. she is thankful for the little free things in life. i mean big things. like sunshine and seahorses. like baby turtles and fresh drinking water. time with mommy, barefeet, health, understanding another language, universal friendships, rainbows, paddleoarding, picnics, sunglasses, and ice cream. these are mostly all characteristics of adventures and nature and relationships. not stuff. she is not thankful for stuff. she is thankful for nature, and for things that we have that other do not, putting life in perspective. not thankful for a new boat we have that a classmate doesnt, but thankful for flip flops when our neighbors dont have any, or thankful for a fan at night or sleeping or thankful for a hot water shower instead of cold. well maybe she is thankful her new state of the art pink snorkel. but nah not even that. because that is yet another characteristic of a free adventure and life exploration.
11. humanity is her family. there are no colors anymore. there are no languages. there are people. beautiful human beings waiting to share friendship and be loved. waiting to be understood and accepted. she realizes that we are all equal. no matter where in the world we live. what we do, what we look like, how much money we have. here, we are the different ones. and sometimes it takes a lesson like that to really understand.
12. and last, she is learning that dreams come true. she is watching her mommy pave her way of happiness and bring amazing things to life. Things that were once ideas in the heart are now morning activities and life perspectives. She is learning that anything we dream up and want in this life, we can make happen. Anything that we dont like, we have the power to change. Anything that we believe in and love, we deserve to have. Anything that makes us happy, we can experience. She is learning that nothing is impossible, beyond reach, or silly to dream. she is learning that we have one life, and we deserve to live that the way we believe. and dreams are not meant to be dreams, but inspiration and encouragement to live and achieve and believe, and hope, and pray, and lead, and do.
so you see, i am a really bad mommy.
the reason i named my daughter river is because of the simple beauty in rivers, and nature, the simple beauties that keep us grounded and real. the way i want our life to be. and i hope that one day she forgives me for cashing in our old life for the one i believed in. with happiness and freedom and open mindedness and beauty and equality and nature and humanity and discovery. i am praying that i have ruined her life forever.
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