Saturday, February 16, 2008
uphill battles are worth the fight
living in a foreign country is hard. mix in a "native" husband and a "bicultural" baby and you get an eyebrow raise from almost everyone. i stay at home. we can't live completely on amalio's salary... so i teach in my house. but my family is my priority. i feel like i spend most of my days defending our decisions in parenting. samil goes everywhere with me. i rarely leave him with anyone, and when i do, it's someone we really trust. there's a culture - here and even in the states i suppose - of kids being an inconvenience. an obligation. it's amazing how many women tell me that they have children because that's what they're supposed to do. it's the woman's job. in most of the thirdworld or developing countries that i've been in, children are the priority, they are the hope of the future. someday they might rise above the mess and poverty and improve their quality of life. however, the dominican republic has a funny identity. developing, yet not. third world, but not quite. this paradox creates a bizarre mix of values... a life stuck somewhere between tradition and modernity. a life somewhat dominican with a lot of "western" influence. my relationship with samil is curious for people from all spectrums. wealthy women - who often stay at home - often have nannies and maids to raise their children. no cooking ,cleaning or childrearing for them. middle class women, in an attempt to give their child a better, longer education, send their children to daycare -- non-regulated sites often filled with 25 or more toddlers for two teachers -- and poor women who send their children to grandmom while they head to work. of course they are generalizations. and generalizing is rarely a good thing. everyone does what they can, what their situation allows and what they think is the best for their family. amalio and i are doing what we can, what we think is best for our family. we have to defend our decisions frequently - to both dominicans and americans - as we try to blend two cultures, two languages and two countries. in the end i'm sure it will be the best for samil, and that's what we're really out for. Some of our "questionable" decisions: -- we're raising samil bilingual. that means both languages - AT THE SAME TIME. I talk to him in english and amalio is spanish. we'll probably focus on the english since... -- samil will attend public school. yup. we know he's only 6 months old, but we are both of the philosophy that public schools will never get better if the people who have the resources to change them send their kids to private schools. amalio is a public school teacher and he believes strongly in the education that he gives. -- however, we want samil to have a full education in both language and since school here is only 4 hours long, he will be supplemented with homeschooling to complete his schedule. -- samil is breastfed. and will be exclusively breastfed until at leastone year or there is no milk left. as long as there is milk, he won't be given formula. i don't feel like it's necessary. -- i make samils food. well, most of it. it's cheaper and healthier... eventhough sometimes i wish i had a jar of gerber's lying around for moments of panic. -- we don't believe in physical punishment. i think that punishing children with violence doesn't help them understand the issue ... or how to deal with other people who treat them wrong. violence begets violence. ...ontheotherhand...i understand why parents spank, and i have no problem with it. it's just not for me. -- i carry samil in a carrier. no, he's not uncomfortable, his back isn't going to break and he will not become pigeon-toed. --we're just now night-weaning samil. if the baby is hungry, he's hungry. but now he eats semi-solids and has slept throught the night frequently. and so, he will continue to sleep through - whether he likes it or not. -- we didn't make a schedule for samil, but he has routines - like bathtime, bedtime and eating routines - that make my life easier. -- samil plays independently and is not picked up at the first sign of crying. he goes to school with me and plays in his playpen by himself. at first he would cry, but he's since learned his school-time routine and is pretty happy about it. -- we let people carry him. even my 12 year old students. as long as someone is with them. we're not concerned about him getting sick. it's natural. -- he will not have the chicken pox vaccine. that's dumb. -- samil is currently learning to drink from a sippy cup. i don't like bottles. it's personal. and i hate when i see 5 years olds drinking milk from bottles because their parents never took it away from them. he does a good job. -- samil uses a pacifier (BOBO) to go to sleep. we're in the process of weaning him from that too. phew. that was long. and not even half of the things we get asked about on a regular basis. what do you think? suggestions? i guess really, we have our ways but are open to help from people with more experience than us.