A recent International Day at my son’s school opened a whole world of opportunity and discussion for us one night in our home. Edward’s school asked all the students to dress in their National dress or colors, and to bring food to share that represents their country. Edward took banana bread with chocolate chips (pretty USA to me!), and he wore his Utah shirt with some red and blue plaid shorts.
That night at dinner, this whole experience started coming together for Edward while eating a Greek pasta salad. As my son was digging through the salad looking for the “good” stuff to eat, he poked an olive, picked it up on his fork and asked “Dad, what country are these olives from?”
In that moment, my husband and I looked at each other and realized, for the first time, that our six-year-old son was aware of the word ‘country’, and knew that there are many different countries. Up until now, his “World” has consisted of Utah. To him, Utah might as well have been a country! Even though we travel to Mexico one to two times a year, I don’t know how much he ever really understood that Mexico was another country. He’s even had an au pair live with him from Germany, but again, I don’t think he “got” it.
So, as we sit here at dinner, my husband answers him with “they are from Greece”. Edward, excited and with eyes wide said, “my friend Marcus is from Greece!” Marcus is a friend at a new school Edward now attends. My husband then asked, “do you know anyone from South Africa?” “Yes! Louis is from South Africa!” He then continued to tell us the names of other students in his class and where they were from… Amy is from England, Abdula is from the UAE, Hester is from Holland, and Gabrielle is from Australia. He also remembered that his friends, The Hendersons, are from the country with the red leaf on the flag…you know, Canada.
My husband and I were SO excited by this conversation we were having with our son. He is understanding that the friends he is making are from all over the World, and that he might be able to visit them when he’s older in their own countries. Remember pen-pals? I think we may bring that back into fashion! My husband then explained to him how he lived in France for a year and that’s how he knows how to speak French. Edward’s wheels were turning, he was asking more and more questions…he was hooked. We’re going to France this summer…hopefully. My husband asked, “What do Phineas and Ferb climb?” Eden, my daughter, shouts out “the Eiffel Tower!” When Edward found out he too will “climb” the Eiffel Tower, he was beyond excited! I have my own little Phineas and Ferbs in my kids…they want to travel, explore, and learn new things.
We were going to go to Bali this summer for vacation before the France opportunity presented itself. During the planning time, we showed Edward the Google Maps of the area. He noticed, right away, the volcano on the island. He told us that his current teacher lives near the volcano in Bali. He’s remembering things about countries as we talk about them and learn about them. We’ve even alluded to some of the wars going on RIGHT around us, because Edward was mimicking using a gun one day. When we told him this isn’t the place to do that, it lead to a mild conversation on what is happening around us. I was talking to my son about war, but in a gentle way. I don’t know that I would have discussed it at this age if we were back home, but it’s in his back yard now. This opportunity is teaching him about life outside his box.
We are so thankful for this experience with our children. While some moments are tough and we want to pack up and go, there are moments like this night at our dining room table, that reassure us as to why we’re here and what our children are gaining from it in the long run.