Friday, August 29, 2008

Not "the Real World?"

Everything is starting to fall back into routine. School has started, Rachel is up early, I'm dragging Kendra out of bed, I will start German lessons again and we had our first morning of Bible Study yesterday.

It is so nice to see this group of women I've missed over the summer. This begins year 3 for me in this group and we learn so much from each other. This year we will be studying "A Heart Like His" by Beth Moore - a study of the life of David. I'm really looking forward to this one. A man who God considered " a man after His (God's) own heart" and yet had a lot of trouble during his lifetime. So I look at it as an example for all - none of us are perfect, we're all sinners and we all carry some baggage BUT God love's us in spite of that.

So - of course, first morning is full of where've you been, how's your summer, kids, family, etc... Then we got on the subject of standards. The house rules. How everyone's family has different ones. It started with one of our ladies from China - she's very outspoken, funny and has interesting observations as someone who grew up Buddhist with a gazillion gods and then found herself believing in One. She discussed how she had to explain why their family set "limits/budgets" on things like gifts (her daughters little girlfriend can purchase whatever gift for a friend with no limit).

Here in Switzerland, we really live in a community of Expats. Our school represents approx. 40 - 45 different countries currently. There are now over 500 students at the girls school location alone (K - 5th). And we all represent different standards/cultures. KD said "it's really hard to deal with the boundaries here, it's so different than if we were at home - it's not the real world." She's from OH.

We discussed issues like the school parking lot looks like a European Motors dealership with a few Bentley's and Asian imports thrown in (remember the K-gartener picked up by the red Ferrari? they moved). How some Jr High students have personal debit cards with 500chf/monthly limits. Parents who allow their child to invite a couple friends to Paris for a weekend Bday trip (why didn't I ever get invites like that?). It is more common than not to hear parents of Seniors talking about Univ. in Geneva, Florence, Cambridge, Oxford or Ivy League. And I can't even talk about the who's traveled where bit because we certainly do our share.

Initially, I agreed with the statement that "we aren't living in the Real World." But I'm not so sure.

Yes, I won't deny there aren't perks when you make a corporate move overseas. There is a definite increase in overall lifestyle living in Switzerland - great/clean public transport, good food, clean streets, low crime, beautiful scenery, CLEAN bathrooms (can you tell that's an issue for me), and fun, fun, fun things to do outdoors.

However, in every environment you place yourself in, people will compare their situation to anothers. The grass is always greener. There will always be someone who has more, different toys, different options for schooling, etc.... There is a "keeping up with the Jones's" aspect to every part of life - where ever you live. I think I struggled with it most in CA. Less in IA. Here - I know I won't be wearing head-to-toe Chanel like one mom (who looks like Angela Bassett - beautiful!) or driving the Bentley so I'm pretty practical as to where I stand in the universe.

We discussed how important it is to set standards/boundaries for our kids. It's never too early to start. In our house, we often discuss why we will or won't pay for things. Very often we are honest with the cost of certain things so the girls can start grasping the concept of how we budget for items/trips. They have to get beyond the concept of "go to the bank and get money." They are learning that you have to earn and put the money in before you can take anything out.

Our kids have a very different upbringing than we had but we don't want them to take what they have for granted. They each "have" a girl they sponsor through Compassion Int'l (see the little link - it's a great organization) and by learning how people live in a different country/circumstance, they can glimpse that their way of life isn't the only way.

They are given limits on souvenirs when we travel - and must supplement with their own $$ if an item costs more. They earn $$ by doing extra work in the house - bathroom sinks, mirrors, vaccuming, mop, etc... What's funny is they now ask for it in different currencies. "Mom, can you pay me in Euro's this time?" or francs, or "US money."

We (OK - I) also set dress standards - I know I may be old school but... There are things they wear around the house that aren't necessarily appropriate for school (they have a bit of a dress code), church or eating out. Bart was the victim of my standards the year I divided up his T-shirts "OK hon, this is the pile of T-shirts I am willing to be seen out in public with you in and this pile is what you are only allowed to wear in the house/mowing the yard." Not that he isn't the sharped-dressed man (looks great on his way to work) but he does like his T-shirts and doesn't like it when they get tossed by me.

Different Standards - different rules - different cultures - our kids just live in a world full of differences.

I wouldn't normally write so much about this but after that discussion, I've really been evaluating how we treat this part of our life. What is normal anyway?

Right now - my main battle is getting the kids (the 5th graders - 10/11yrs) who ride with us to understand that if I have available seats in the back of the car, that's where they sit. Not in the front seat - even if their parents let them (scare them with the air bag issue). I am very clear with my kids/visiting kids, what our house standards are.

Even if it pertains to where they sit in the car.

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