Raising Aspiring Emigrants

Kids are their own people. Any of us can see this is an underlying theme in drama (in books, on the screen, and in real life dramas).  It’s obvious from a quick look at how much our friends differ from their own parents. Years ago I joked that my anti-establishment neighbor’s son might just grow up to be a conservative stockbroker and that my frantically risk-averse friend could end up with a thrill-seeking daughter. I learned pretty quickly such jokes are not appreciated.

But I thought I understood that kids go their own way reasonably well. I’ve managed to celebrate the unique passions my own kids pursue, even though their interests aren’t remotely fascinating to me. I’m glad to see that we’re largely in sync on bigger issues. My kids and I tend to agree on politics and religion, we share a disinterest in most sports, and we’re all somewhat introverted. What we don’t share? A desire to stay close to our roots, geographically speaking. I’ve tried to raise them to be global citizens. Is it possible to take that too far? I’ve always lived close to my hometown and extended family. One or two of my four kids may not have that gene.

One of my sons is entranced by Finland. I think it started while chatting with online Finnish friends. Hankering to drive, he told me that kids in Finland are encouraged to get driving experience starting at a very young age and given training to handle slippery and hazardous road conditions (ice + moose, for example). The licensing requirements are some of the strictest in the world, he explained, a pointed contrast to the jerk on the road in front of us at the time who was cutting off cars and weaving across lanes.

My son also has a thing for Finnish music, starting with the now iconic band Apocalyptica formed by classically trained cellists.

Finnish musicians offer plenty of diversity, including partially submerged folk singers

and dancing puffballs.

And he is inspired by the Finnish spirit. He sees it in their traditions and history (I never thought I’d hear so much about the Winter War). Finnish character is said to have a lot to do with the term sisu. This doesn’t translate easily. It’s related to inner will and the determination to persist despite the odds. This spirit, as my son sees it, also has to do with the Finnish way of doing things. That includes summer competitions that Finns call “world championships” in swamp soccer, mobile phone throwing, and wife carrying. Or a recent proposal in Parliament to extend the annual four-week paid holiday by another week, for a “love holiday.”

Browsing around the web, I can see the allure. The country has stunning beauty and cultural richness. Newsweek ranked Finland the world’s best country in 2010 based on high life expectancy, high literacy rates, minimal income gap, excellent access to health care, and a good work-leisure balance. In The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World it was noted that people in Finland are remarkably content. Of course we’ve all heard about Finland’s world-class school system. Their educational approach says quite a bit about the country. Schools there don’t rely on standardized tests or a heavy homework load but instead emphasize balance, giving kids plenty of time for outdoor play, art, and music. That seems to reflect a general emphasis on living at a slower pace and enjoying life’s simpler pleasures. I may have to adjust to having one of my beloved offspring emigrate some day. (sob)

But another of my kids is talking up New Zealand. Land of fascinating spider species, amazing diversity, and gorgeous vistas.

Also home to the compelling Haka, traditional ancestral war cry of the Maori people, now performed by the All Blacks, NZ’s rugby team, before their matches.

Serves me right for joking about other people’s children. Come to think of it, my attempts at humor weren’t all that far off. My anti-establishment neighbor’s son is now in college getting a degree in business, hoping to work in investment banking. The daughter of my risk-averse friend is into barefoot climbing.

Guess I’d better make sure my passport is in order.

About Laura Grace Weldon

Laura Grace Weldon is a writer and editor, perhaps due to an English professor's scathing denunciation of her writing as "curious verbiage." She's the author of "Free Range Learning," a handbook of natural learning and "Tending," a poetry collection. (lauragraceweldon.com) She's working on her next book, "Subversive Cooking" (subversivecooking.com). She lives on Bit of Earth Farm where she is a barely useful farm wench. Although she has deadlines to meet she often wanders from the computer to preach hope, snort with laughter, cook subversively, talk to chickens and cows, discuss life’s deeper meaning with her surprisingly tolerant offspring, sing to bees, hide in books, walk dogs, concoct tinctures, watch foreign films, and make messy art.
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9 Responses to Raising Aspiring Emigrants

  1. Wendy says:

    LOL I loved this article. My family and myself, while still living close to friends are considering relocating (just a little further) from that family. I have raised my kids with a world view, however, and would myself love to live abroad for a time. I have a fascination with India- all things India nearly movies, music, and culture. I am captivated by Rome, the ruins of Pompei, Konosos and Akrotiri. I’d love to see Machu Picchu and the Taj Mahal. I seem to have passed on this fascination with other places to at least one of my children (the other ironically enough while he’d like to travel is intent on settling two hours away in Nashville- Go figure). I hope whether or not I ever get to they are world travelers- I just hope they come back home with my grand babies :)

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    • Totally agree on the grand babies (whenever in the distant future that turns us into grannies).

      I have a tale about moving just a little farther from extended family. Fifteen years ago we moved about 40 minutes away to our little farm (http://bitofearthfarm.wordpress.com/). You’d think we have relocated to a distant island. Relatives and plenty of friends gave us a really hard time. They weren’t disputing any reason for our move, just the inconvenience it represented to them. I still drive that direction 9 out of 10 times to see them because I’m told “you’re just too far.” Pretty funny.

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  2. I loved this post, Laura. Thank you! At this very moment we are continuing our process to try and globalize our young children with fully-immersed visits to Paris and the Netherlands. If anyone would like to do some armchair travelling to Paris with small children please do read my last 4 short posts! http://homeschoolingmiddleeast.wordpress.com In these posts you will see my exasperation at the kids’ desire to see Disneyland which I consider not part of the globalization process but the homogenizing of foreign experiences! We’ll see whether we go on Thursday or not! I love your links and will try and find 5 minutes to view them :)

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    • Wendy says:

      You sound like me. LOL NOOO interest in Disney. I don’t know how old your children are but take heart. I kept working with mine and immersing them in other things until a couple of years ago (they were 13 and 11) they chose a trip to Charleston and Savannah to see the historic sights over Disney. Chose it again last year and this year with other trips. It will pay off. :)

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      • Wow! Well done, Wendy! I don’t know if it will work this year, watch this space, but I think at least our kids will consider that there are alternatives and hopefully realize as they got older how much such a place doesn’t chime with our values and how plastic the whole thing is. But the problem has been peer pressure. My son has heard so many stories from friends about how amazing it is, it’s hardly surprising he wants to see for himself.

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    • My parents sent us and our kids to Disney, much as we (my husband and I) balked. Worst trip of our lives. Everything is fake at Disney, from the employees’ smiles to the scents in the air. We didn’t see a bird in a tree, a bug in the grass, a single flying insect. It’s not just homogenized, it’s sterilized. That’s not living a fantasy, it’s a nightmare.

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  3. kahollis says:

    This hit home for me. My daughter, 16 and an Aspie, was adamant for years that she’d never leave our house, that she’d have the same bedroom and the same carpet in that bedroom and all her stuffed animals until she died. Recently, however, she’s become sure she’s going to live in the UK as soon as she can manage. She’s half British, her dad is still a citizen of that country, she adores British humor and British literature; so it’s very possible. The whole family on my husband’s side is filled with global wanderlust. My husband was born in Kenya, lived for a while in Singapore, went to school and university in the UK, moved directly to the US upon receiving his graduate degree. His brother followed suit in terms of education, and now does computer programming that has something to do with oil extraction. He works in the North Sea, Senegal, Georgia, Armenia… and when he’s in the UK, he works in different cities and commutes home on weekends. His children spent gap years in Kenya and Canada, respectively; his son now works in Singapore.

    And here I am, the failed global explorer, who has gotten homesick just about every single time I’ve spent extended time away from home. Until I had my daughter, that is. Since then, wherever she’s been has been home to me. Now it looks as though I’ll have to learn to be homesick in a whole new way.

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