Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Day 306 - So you want to be a host parent? Have No Regrets

Every time I say, "I'm never going to do this again." in response to having a foreign alien in my home commonly known as a teenager.  Cupboard doors left open, beds not made, forgetting to lock the door, or forgetting their purse, or just plain forgetting! We set out in the beginning to open our home to someone's daughter or son from across the globe with hopes of making a difference.  I feel that giving a host daughter or host son from another country not only expands my views but completely changes theirs.  The honeymoon begins when they enter your world via the airport.  Simple things amaze me that they don't know.  We all as Americans know that since 9/11, we can't meet you at the gate, we meet in baggage claim.  This is a little detail with huge importance.  Their phones don't work in America when they get here so how else will we find them.  Parents love their children sooo much they don't think to pay the additional $25 to have them escorted to meet the host parents who must show their ID.

They don't know how to unload the dishwasher, clean, cook, address a postcard, how much a stamp costs (they know the price of shoes!), how to catch a frog, plant a flower, or what kind of birds are native to their country and region. They don't know we don't speak British and are constantly having a problem with the past perfect tense of verbs.  "They taught us that way" they say! We've also been called American Pigs by Australian relatives (young and ignorant relatives, not the wiser and older relatives)

This time, when meeting our Australian daughter, her parents did just that, they paid to have her meet with me and I was escorted to her.  The time prior to that I was trying to find out where my host son from Germany was.  Nobody would give me any information because his German parents who are a doctor and heathcare sales rep respectively didn't pay the nominal fee to secure his arrival.  Despite their ignorance, I found him. The parents sign a waiver that they will not contact their son or daughter while in America.  They must abide by the American host parents rules. In theory this is "nice" but in reality they do whatever they want.  And as a result this causes many American parents real problems.  And thus my statement, "I'm never going to do this again."

I know this is tough on ANY parent so personally I allow emails as often as you'd like and skyping once a month home to share all the exciting things we do in America.  We candidly let the Birth parents know that we do however institute a 30-day moratorium of no contact what-so-ever particularly for the non-English speaking students. This assures their total absorption of the English language and forces them to learn quickly.  With our Australian daughter, it was the American culture we wanted her to absorb.  We as host parents make sure the kids maximize their stay in our lives and in America by teaching them and showing them as much as we can.  Places that most Americans have never been cumulatively in a lifetime, they will visit in six to ten months. 

Sam and Steve in Pennsylvania Monument built to honor the highest number of Civil War Casualties
It has been a learning experience for us as we didn't understand the attitude that would come with already knowing English.  Our host daughter thinks that just because she speaks the language she knows how to live in America and insists on doing things HER way.  And I always smack myself in the head and think, why do these kids even come to America when they don't want to broaden their horizons and learn as much as they can while they are here? "That's not the way WE do it!" as she metaphorically slaps us in the face. They would rather get on the internet and tell all their friends back home for hours on the internet instead of spending time with their host parents who have been kind enough to invite them into our homes, stop our lives and revolve around our new "son" or "daughter, like the earth revolves around it's sun.

They test our boundaries, misplace things, break things,etc. just like our own American birth sons and daughters and are typical teenagers.  But do they really get it?  I've heard many times from other American Host parents that we feel like they treat us as their "hotel."  They don't pay rent so maybe we should start charging?  It is so rude in our culture to come into our homes and not want to talk to you.  Closing their bedroom door and staying in there for hours.    Only to tell their friends at home what a great time they are having. 

I learned from the German son that technology has put other limitations on what parents can do.  With the iPhone once they have your code for your wireless internet, you have no control.  They do whatever they want, talk to whomever they want whenever they want.  I stopped this with the next host daughter and didn't give the access code.  I now monitor the wireless to ensure that the kids don't get sucked into this black hole of Facebook and Facetime and Instant Chat instead of talking to us.  It is amazing to me that they will come home and answer the question of "How was your day?" with "OK, normal, etc" only to overhear them tell a friend about a fight that broke out in school and this is Spirit Week, Homecoming, etc. That is NOT a NORMAL, OK Day!  The parents back home want to hear all about it but don't realize this interferes with the bonding process with the parents who are kind enough to take them in.  It is better for parents to talk to parents during this time.  Google Translator and Skype provide this segway and technology is great for this.

Sam and BJ at Gettysburg above Devil's Den

Sam in NY Monument to 2nd most Civil War Soldiers Killed
So we try to be the guiding force and gently prod them to do new things and think the way we know ALL parents want (with the exception of the German Parents who told their son he didn't have to listen to our rules!) and that is to learn kindness, critical thinking skills and open their minds to what can be instead of what they think the world already is. We hear many times from the parents upon our host daughters and host sons return, that they left a girl or boy and returned a young woman or man!  What a compliment, just a few words that let us know that we did the right thing and have no regrets.  Good parents are good parents around the world in every language and country.  Our common bond.  The old adage is true.  If you let something go and it comes back to you, it was yours all along.  We can't be ready for the next step until we let go of something or someone.  Thankfully for the host daughters and sons, their parents loved them enough to let them go and grow.  They always come back, and this short time in America will but only be a memory.  Parents who really let go temporarily and give their children space, ultimately give their children memories of a better and more lasting kind.

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