Tuesday, September 25, 2012

My child's childhood

Have you ever stopped to think about the ways in which your child is growing up differently than you did? Certainly because of time, but also perhaps because of place?

The other day, Magdalena brought home a coloring page from school. "It's an Indian koala," she said:
When I was four years old, if I said something was Indian, I probably meant Native American. In Magdalena's childhood, Indian means INDIAN Indian, like, from India. When we were in the US this summer, I talked with the girls about Lewis and Clark and I found the idea of (Native American) Indians very hard to explain. (Note to self: find out if there is a totally clear, PC term these days to use.) To Magdalena, this koala is Indian "because it has really bright colors." Someone was paying attention to the Diwali decorations at Miriam's school last year, I think.

When I was a kid growing up in the Pacific Northwest, where even summer evenings can get chilly, I never once went swimming without also getting freezing cold. My kids, on the other hand, will have memories of going swimming on Christmas Day, and at night all the time, without getting cold.

I have a really distinct memory as a kid of once seeing a field full of grazing llamas. It was something singular and amazing to behold. My kids see camels all the time. It has long since stopped being a big deal. Also in the Not A Big Deal category: the tallest building in the world. I remember as a kid coming through the Sunset Highway tunnel into downtown Portland and announcing, "It's the beautiful world!" When my kids were in Portland this summer, I think their reaction was kind of...meh.

BUT. My kids are in awe of wide expanses of greenery and forest trails and Mormon church buildings that are just down the street. Plus fireworks, parades, and all the blueberries, strawberries, and corn you can eat, straight from the backyard. Oh, and trampolines. You know, stuff that was commonplace when I was a kid.

I wish I could see the world through their eyes sometimes. I catch glimpses of it through overheard conversations with their little friends, or the things Miriam writes at school...or the pictures Magdalena colors.


Myrna said...

Moving to the US from Canada the whole "Indian" thing was a bit mind-boggling. We (Canadians) started calling our aboriginal people "First Nations" a long time ago. Still grates on me, living in the US, to hear of American aboriginals referred to as "Indians". And I love Magdalena's Indian koala!

Katie Lewis said...

So interesting and so true. This is something I find myself thinking about all the time too. Like, I think about all the stuff I've made for Olivia and and that I'm working on a book now and that it will (hopefully) be published before she starts first grade. And I wonder, will she just think, "Oh, my mom was always that way." And will she think it's normal for her mom to just whip stuff up for her all the time? I also think about how having Bryan in school has been such a huge part of Olivia's life so far and how strange it'll be if/when we have more kids and, to them, their dad will have just been an optometrist their whole lives, not a student... or the 18 year old kid I met at BYU.

I guess those are more reflections on wondering what Olivia thinks of Bryan and me. But I also think a lot about how Olivia is NOT growing up in Oregon like I did. A while ago I made her a shirt with a pine tree on it. To me, it was a tree like any other, the most common kind there is. But when I first showed it to Olivia she said, "Christmas tree!" I've tried infusing her with my Oregonian ways and so far it's not working. Also, it's always weird to me that she wants to find Ohio on maps. Even though that's where we live and it's really the place she's most aware of and remembers most, it still catches me off guard every time. "Ohio?" To me, it's just where we are while Bryan finishes school, such a temporary place. To Olivia, it's her whole entire world.

Julia - Finding My Way Softly said...

I am glad Myrna brought up "First Nations." I had heard it before, but didn't really understand the implications until I saw the Vancouver Olympics and started researching it. I really wish that we would become more aware of the personhood and nationhood of the original Americans.

Several friends how are descendants of Native American ancestors have told me that they prefer First Americans of the name of their tribe, but they accept Native American because it is the best choice that people regularly use.

Susanne said...

I love these kinds of posts, and find them so interesting! Thank you for sharing!

Eevi said...

I think of this as well since my kids are growing up with a whole another language and whole another country than I did. Though soon, as I get older, it will have been more time that I have lived in the U.S than in Finland. Pretty crazy. I loved this post:)

Lisa Lou said...

This is how my life is compared to my mom's. Her first plane ride was at 22. Mine was at 2. Her first experience out of the country was with three little kids. My first experience was as one of those kids. However, by the time she was my age she had 5 kids and was wrapping up her child-bearing years. I'm just starting mine. It goes both ways.

Kathy Haynie said...

Some time ago I asked a Native American acquaintance what was the proper term to use - "Native American" or "Indian." She responded that even though "Native American" is more politically correct, many Indians prefer the term "Indian" because it's a legal term. "It's the legal word in the treaties," she said.

I do like the First Nations term. When we study Chinook jargon and Coyote stories in the Oregon Literature class I teach, I talk about "what do we call NA/Indians?" with my students. Based on the strong opinion of my informant, I usually use the term, "Indians," but they're kind of interchangeable in my teaching world.

Liz Johnson said...

This post makes me anxious because I have a deep-seated fear of my children growing up in white bread, entitled, suburbia. I think we're going to need to spend a year in a foreign country just to undo some of this stuff.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

The thing with "Native American" is that it doesn't work if you want to describe indigenous Americans. First, who is defining indigenous? Didn't they cross the land bridge from Asia at some point? Second, I'm a native American myself. But I doubt if I have so much as a drop of "xxxxxx" blood (Cherokee, Choctaw, Paiute, Calapuya, etc).

Shari said...

I often think about how our children are getting such different childhood experiences than Jon and I did. I wrote a post on this once, but I find it funny that I used to draw pictures of country houses by trees with apples, and Kate draws pictures of skyscrapers and apartment buildings.


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