Motherhood here and there

Thursday, July 25, 2013

For four years, we lived next door to a family from Norway, and they became some of our closest friends. Our children were young, with a 7-year-old, a not-yet-born, and everything in between. The kids raced between houses, had their first sleepovers, and started preschool and elementary school together. We celebrated Norwegian holidays with them, and they went trick-or-treating and to Fourth of July parades with us.

Audrey (the mom) and I spent hours talking on their driveway, and often those conversations were about life in the United States vs. their home in Norway. Audrey is Scottish, married to a Norwegian, and her ability to adjust to other cultures seemed almost effortless. Her insights into life both here and there fascinated me.

Eventually our friends moved back to Norway, and we miss them. I thought of Audrey, her sweet, Americanized kids, and all our conversations on the driveway, when I read the first of a series on one of my favorite blogs, A Cup of Jo. For the series, called Motherhood Around the World, blogger Joanna Goddard interviews American mothers about their impressions of raising children in a foreign country. First up was Norway (coincidentally), and last Monday was Japan. You can find both here.

I've loved reading about the differences these mothers have encountered living overseas. But I've also loved the sameness. For example, Joanna interviewed Yoko Inoue, a photographer who grew up in Japan but lived in the United States for 17 years before moving back with her American husband and son. She talks about children walking to school: "As parents [in Japan] we have to make sure kids always say greetings 'with big voice! Good morning!' No mumbling or looking down. If you don't, it's considered so rude!"

I smiled when I read this. "Remember to look the person in the eye," I'm constantly telling my children. "Use a good, strong voice" (though I'm going to start using the simpler instruction, "With big voice!"). Very Japanese of me, I now know.

This photo is not really related to the post other than reminding me of when she was 7.


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