Friday, June 24, 2011

Stuck Like Glue

When we were back in Vail we spoke with a couple who were from Mexico and Spain and had their kids in the local school with our kids. So they were essentially doing in Vail what we were planning on doing in Ecuador (albeit with mucho mas dinero). We asked how the experience had been for them, and among the comments they made was, "It has really brought the family closer together." It's the life raft approach to family togetherness.

And we have found that when you throw kids into a foreign culture where they don't speak the language, have no other friends or family outside our walls, don't recognize anything around them, don't "get" the food, are stunned by the sound and fury of the city, they tend to cling to their parents and each other like they're under zombie attack.

Piper and Duncan always got on pretty well, so it's hard to make a real clinical conclusion that they are closer now than they might have been at home. But they certainly do spend more time together and play together a lot more than they'd have been able to at home. For one thing, they don't spend as much time during the day in school (and apart from each other) because here we don't have jobs that require their absence until 5pm.

The downsides we see are mostly for Duncan. He'll break into howls of anguish at the least physical discomfort. We wonder if he had more boy time—wrestling, whacking, poking each other in the eyeballs with sticks, etc.—if he wouldn't learn that pain is mostly mental and beating the crap out of each other can be great fun. And of course girls, the less physical and aggressive sex, have developed other, less overt strategies for influencing their world—namely psychological torture. Piper uses her two year advantage on Duncan, along with her beguiling feminine ways to lead him around like a kitten on a leash. We tell the kids that hitting isn't good, but then we see poor Dunc frustrated with Piper's mental manipulation, the poor guy is clearly finding himself as if in battle wearing just his underpants with a spork in one hand. It's just not a fair fight, but he doesn't know to do anything yet but feel helpless. It won't be till adulthood that he realizes he might rather have just had a brother bash him on the head and be done with it. Time will tell.

And Piper is already a natural loner. She's always been content in the corner of the playground, climbing things other kids can't and living in her own imagination. Creatively independent? Emerging sociopath? Again, time will tell, but when your experience in a foreign culture depends much upon your ability and willingness to engage your foreign hosts, she stands at a clear disadvantage there.

But no matter the downsides, it's hard to imagine that we'd ever look back on this experience as anything but great for family togetherness.

Of course a parent's gotta worry about something. Do you think...I dunno, are they becoming...a little too dependent on each other?

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