The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Monday, December 01, 2008


A Foreign Visitor Teaches Us About the Language of Families

When we got a puppy a few years ago, my friend, Mary, scolded me.

“Just what you need. Another thing to take care of,” she said shaking her head.

Mary had heard too many complaints about my frantic life as a busy mother – caring for two active boys, keeping house, maintaining a job outside the home, volunteering for various charities.

She was right, of course. As soon as the puppy passed through the doorway it was as if another toddler had been set loose and my workload increased exponentially.

So what was I thinking a few months back when I agreed to allow a Japanese foreign exchange student to live with us? I wasn’t thinking is the short answer.

I hadn’t considered that I’d be traveling back and forth to three schools instead of two. I wasn’t thinking the teenage girl would need shoes, underwear, a coat, and gloves, and that I’d have to guide her through the mystifying process of shopping in an American mall as she hunted for a dress for her first formal dance.

I was unprepared for the challenge her spotty English and my non-existent Japanese posed forcing us to struggle through conversations until I understood that she suffered period cramps and needed a couple of ibuprofen.

I was unprepared for dealing with the sorrows of another mother’s child, yet, when homesickness drew tears -- I instinctively pulled her toward me and held her until the weeping subsided.

I was even more surprised by the extent to which cultural barriers prevented us from understanding even the most simple of requests. She had been living with us for more than a month before we understood why she declined our offers for a ride to the mall or to the movies.

It wasn’t until a neighbor with family in Japan told us that eagerness was considered impolite there and our student had probably been trained to decline three times before accepting. I shook my head in sorrow at all the times we left her behind while we shopped.

After five months, Emi will soon be leaving us. She’ll be spending the second half of her ten-month American visit with another Sacramento family. As she prepares to go, I remind myself that my life will get easier. But that reminder doesn’t begin to fill the empty place I know will be there when she goes.

All I really think about is how much I’m going to miss her – her accented English, her laughter at our attempts to run a rice cooker, even her tears.

I can’t stop her from leaving. She doesn’t belong to me. Yet, I can take from her time with us the lesson that sometimes the hardest additions to life end up being the most rewarding.

I do, after all, love that damn dog.

By Laura-Lynne Powell

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This blog touched me on many levels. Beautifully written, it brought back my memories of being a foreign student in this country. I remember exactly what it felt like to be in strange culture without my family nearby, and it is because of kindhearted, soulful people like you that I survived, ajusted and learned to enjoy my life here. Thank you for the wonderful blog, and for being the person that you are.
Beautifully written and thoughtful. Lorrie
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