your culture, that you are determined to pass on and share with your children. "/> InCultureParent | The Expat’s Dilemma

Pin It
Monday, November 8th, 2010

The Expat’s Dilemma

By

Eight days before Halloween, on a misty Saturday afternoon, I had what the French call “un grand moment de solitude.” I was in a nearly-deserted park, one designed on a truly grandiose scale. Matthew, age four, was standing next to me, dressed in a raincoat and boots, with a king’s cape. A golden crown was on his head and a foam sword was tucked into his improvised kingly belt made out of a playsilk that had been languishing, unused, for years in his toy box. Aside from us and a few stalwart joggers, the park was empty except for the ducks and the lone swan swimming in the grand canal. In my hands, I had a blue plastic bucket and a bag brimming with candy.

“Mom, where are the other kids?” Matthew asked anxiously.

“Well, sweetie, I think a lot of people decided not to come because of the rain. But your friend C will be here in a few minutes, and remember A? She and her mom are on their way.”

We were standing in the mist in the nearly deserted park on a Saturday afternoon because I was determined to make sure my son got to go trick-or-treating.

He’s only had one American Halloween, when he was two. It was great. It started a week early at the local zoo, which had a huge event for all the kids. We went to Target, bought an adorable dragon costume, he had his little pumpkin-shaped bag with his name embroidered on the side. On Halloween evening, he and his playgroup buddies trooped around the neighborhood, collecting enough candy to keep them in sugar through their third birthdays. Afterwards, there was a party at his cousin’s house. It was easy, joyful, fun.

When you live outside your culture, the “easy, joyful, fun” celebrations take on a whole new level of meaning. They become Important. They are no longer a fun way to pass an evening, but part of a culture, part of your culture, that you are determined to pass on and share with your children. To that end, you will spend a Saturday afternoon in the rain. You will help the other adults organize the trick-or-treating, which won’t be from door-to-door, but from tree-to-tree. When the children reach you, you will say, “What do you say?” and the polite children will all chime together, “PLEEEEEASE” and you realize they don’t know that they’re supposed to say, “Trick or treat!” It will make you sad, while you laugh at the totally predictable mistake.

Fall, which was never a season that held much particular meaning for me, has become a charged time. There’s the hurdle of Halloween, followed by the challenge of Thanksgiving. Then, the mother of all anxiety-producing holidays: Christmas. Will you have family to celebrate with? Will you be alone? Can you manage all the trimmings of what you consider to be a true Christmas–the tree, the lights, the decorations, the big delicious meal, the gifts? The existential dilemma: if Christmas happens with no extended family, is it still Christmas?

When the leaves start to change colors my sense of solitude increases.

In the end, our improvised Halloween in the park was a hit. The mist cleared. A few other families braved the damp. The kids ran from tree to tree, a ragged band in their rainboots and improvised costumes, clutching plastic bags. The bucket, meant for bobbing for apples, wasn’t used–the kids were wet enough as it was. Matthew came home with plenty of candy. And he learned that on Halloween, you don’t say have to say “please.”

© 2010 – 2013, Mary Hackett. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:


Is Raising Bilingual Children Worth the Costs?

Fancy schools, international vacations, foreign language books, DVDs and tutors add up fast

Birth, Loss and In Between

Life after devastation

Ten Reasons Parents Should Read Multicultural Books to Kids

Why it's critical all parents read books that reflect diversity

Arranged Marriage 101

Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Mary Hackett was born and raised on the Texas/Mexico border. She moved to France in 2000 after graduating from the University of Chicago, and aside from a year back in the US has lived there ever since with her Franco-Lebanese husband and their two sons. They are raising their kids trilingually in English, French and Arabic.

Leave us a comment!

2 Comments
  1. CommentsKeith   |  Friday, 19 November 2010 at 10:32 am

    A lovely post and it calls to mind the strange things I brought back with me one year for a Thanksgiving feast: cranberry sauce in a can, those package crunchy onions, cream of mushroom soup… Small, strange, inexpensive things endowed with a fetishistic meaning; things we’d never ever consider eating at any other time of year.

  2. CommentsJill   |  Monday, 03 January 2011 at 11:53 pm

    such a thoughtful post Mary. The urgency with which I feel the need to celebrate Halloween makes me stock our cupboards with candy in a way that I never would’ve had we been living back in the states.









Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!



A Children's Book for Raising Global Citizens

Every life is a story. It’s easier to understand someone when you know their story.

Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!
For quite sometime, whenever there were articles that surfaced the internet concerning whether it was appropriate to breastfeed in public, I was so baffled. As a Mongolian, I was so shocked that som...
From Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan
For quite some whenever there was articles circulated on the internet concerning whether it is appropriate to breastfeed in public. As a Mongolian, I was so shocked that some countries considered i...
From Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan
I live with my Czech in laws with my four children and my Czech is crap I try to learn but the baby doesn't sleep well I'm a constant zombie and the brain just doesn't work. Plus being tired makes m...
From How I Reclaimed My House from My Mother-in-Law
I am so glad I found this site. I am happy to see that I am not alone in experiencing 'family issues' after getting married. I am not from the West but I am married to a Canadian. I never truly unde...
From How I Reclaimed My House from My Mother-in-Law
[…] my most favourite article about breastfeeding called Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan by Ruth Kamnitzer. I have no doubt that Mongolians would find our social stigmas around [R...
From Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan
[…] sources and reasons for the rules of these countries too, such as China, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, and Hungary (see above re “Titanic”).  Has anyone got s...
From International Baby Naming Laws–Are They a Good Thing?
[…] Source Inculture Parents […...
From Lotus Lanterns for Wesak (Buddha Day)
If your nerves shat down your hormones , can you get pregnant by injecting a sperm in you to develop a baby . Please let me know...
From Baby-Making the Hindu Way
[…] Diwali Lantern from InCultureParent […...
From Diwali Craft: Make a Lantern

More from Our Bloggers