As I finished Monday’s blog post I couldn’t help but think there’s more to it than simply calling someone “daughter” and that being that. I think of stories Elisa has told me about her friends who are also on AFS adventures this year around the world, one elsewhere in America and the other in France. Both of them are currently in the process of being relocated to new host families.
I’m not trying to say anything bad about these two students or their initial host families, just that in general this is a process that doesn’t always go smoothly. Think about it for a minute… a child grows up within a specific family with a specific family culture for years, in a specific country with a specific country culture. Meanwhile, across the world another family is formed with a different life experience, in a culture with all of its own little specific details. Then one family pics up a teenager from the other family and tries to instantly make the two mesh. Add in that in some cases they may only speak a few words of a common language and, like I said before, it’s not quite as easy just saying “this is my daughter”.
I am beyond thankful for many things that have helped in the transition process for me and for Elisa. First of all, she speaks AMAZING conversational English. This has helped us out immensely as we have figured out life together. Also, while going from single life living on my own to that of single mom has been quite the transition, there are only two people trying to mesh not a whole family.
That’s not to say there haven’t been challenges with that. For example, from what I can tell the area in which she lives back home it is much safer and logistically easier to get around which means there was lot more freedom and independence given teenagers in her culture. This has made the concepts of curfew and letting me know where she is and having to have rides in a car everywhere a somewhat challenging transition for her. On my end, I’m used to not having to really connect with anyone else’s plans when making plans of my own. When you couple one person not used to telling people where they are and another trying to make plans based up on where the other person is (not to mention that teenagers typically don’t have “plans” and just spontaneously ‘do stuff’) we’ve both had a learning curve.
What I love most though in all of this is the new family culture Elisa and I are creating together. It’s of course still in the works but it involves lots and lots of laughter for which I am thankful. It involves a balance of having the honor of serving her as my daughter doing things like packing a lunch or washing her volleyball jersey mixed with teaching her how to do things on her own. It involves learning how to use snapchat and hearing about her day at school. It involves tough conversations and time to goof-off. It involves planning with space for spontaneity. It’s all about taking time when cultures collide to try to understand each other and figure out a new normal. In some cases, like that of her two friends, it just doesn’t work out. I’m so thankful that for us, it has!