In my reflective mood today and I am going to honestly process a tension I feel right now, not because there are easy answers, but because it is what’s on my heart, not for good or bad, just thoughts I wrestle with.
In Ethiopia, our family is considered a “down-country” family, even though we live in the North. While we are in Addis Ababa, we have been at the guesthouse with four other down-country families and the girls play until I force them to sleep or come with me on an errand. It has made our time without Jon significantly more enjoyable.
We have lived for 17 months in Ethiopia and though The Littles remember many people in the USA, they’ve forgotten many of the places and the experiences.
A tea party on the lawn
I contracted a taxi to take the girls to eye appointments. It was at the international school that we affiliate with and I watched them, big-eyed and in reluctance enter a setting full of kids. Being down-country can hurt a kids’ social skills, especially if the kids are shy. As I watched their discomfort mount, I took deep breaths and tried to not worry about what they would be like in the future. Shy, home-schooled, down-country, twin. Each of those labels can be a huge strike against them being “normal” or “well-adjusted". I couldn’t get Little A to get on the scale to be weighed (although it was scary, the people at the clinic could only speak Korean and Amharic). As I tried to make the eye appointment fun and begged the girls to cooperate, it made me wonder, “What am I doing to you? Will you be an angry teenager that I robbed you of a normal American childhood?”
Because we pay a fee at the international school to be part of the homeschool program, we get access to the library.
The Littles didn’t remember a library and were beside themselves in delight at the idea that we got to take as many books as we wanted. (We have a three month return policy and over 100 book limit).
Nothing about learning about a library experience was happening organically, but rather, I sat them down, “This is a library, we get to check out books.” and then talk through what it means to check out a book and show how to use the shelf markers. As I scanned the shelves, I chose books focusing on Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween and just in general, books that are main stream in American culture because I realize how many things, big and little, my girls do not know how to do in American culture. Their culture isn’t American, nor is it Ethiopian, it’s somewhere in between with a delightful smattering of friends across the world, enriching and confusing the issues.
It’s odd and sometimes I’m saddened by it, but I realize they have a rich and vast knowledge base that they couldn’t have if we did the life I occasionally long for The Littles. And also, there enjoyment for small things is amazing. Like the time they reacted to an escalator like it was a roller coaster.
I see it in me too. I am ecstatic to return to the US for my brother’s wedding in December but I am also scared. In 18 months, a lot changes. Thankfully, I am a different person than I was a year and a half ago and you have all journeyed through 18 months and been changed by it too. I wonder if I have changed to the point where I am no longer “normal”. It makes me realize the importance of being grace-filled for others and their life-shaping experiences.
We are in between worlds and love both but we are still really new at navigating these (for our family) uncharted waters.