When we moved here we decided that putting our kids in a national school. We thought it would be the best way for them to gain cultural exposure and perhaps learn a bit of Hindi along the way. The Hindi is slowly coming along slowly, and our oldest has done as one of only two Westerners in his class.
Recently, our second child entered school this year, and while it was a little bit of a challenge for him the first couple of weeks, he seems to finally be coming along. A meeting with his teachers today confirms he has used his charm to make friends and melt the hearts of his teachers and we are glad he is adjusting to the long day away from home.
We are glad they’ve settled in, even if sometimes we aren’t exactly glad about what they’re learning. A few days ago our oldest said, “Sh*t” and my husband and I looked at each other–I knew he was probably thinking I had let it slip that day and our son was repeating me. But we both asked him where he had heard this word and he told us that everyone uses it at school. Even the teachers. Like the equivalent of “darn” or “shoot.” So then we had to discuss why we don’t use that word and of course they wanted to know what it meant. Fun conversation.
Sometimes it’s hard to explain to them why we don’t do certain things when they are common practice here because we don’t want it to be like an “us” and “them” sort of thing. But ultimately we don’t want them to go back to their home culture and be completely clueless. Being what’s called a Third Culture Kid has enough challenges as it is. I’m sure all this can be quite confusing for them at times–it sometimes is for me and I’m old enough to know how to process it.
I thought about when I was in third grade and my best friend at the time taught me every curse word she had gleaned from her older sister. I knew those words were just for the playground or the bus and not to be uttered in front of my parents. Forbidden words said to impress boys. My kids, on the other hand, are having to learn that what might be okay culturally is not okay in our home or in front of their grandparents and cousins when we see them in the near future. I’m not sure they have a filter yet for what is appropriate and what’s not and I’m just waiting for the moment when a colorful word slips out.
So what have I learned from this process of trying to navigate the Indian education system and the little things that spring up from time to time that we have to gingerly address? Well, it’s basically like navigating the roads, the markets, and everything else. Flexibility. Without it I would spend every second of my life here in a constant state of frustration. And I do still get frustrated–believe me. But hopefully not as much as I did when we first moved here and I had too many unrealistic expectations. Wait, I still have unrealistic expectations. Maybe someday I’ll get there.
I like to think that what my kids are lacking in knowledge of American History they make up in unique life experiences. Should I also mention my son knows how to sing the Indian national anthem in Hindi, but not ours in English? Gasp! So the adventure continues. As does the education–formal and informal–for us all.