Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Empty Nesting for Culture

I fell off the radar temporarily last week. Lost all communication. It was a combination of the end of school, huge trip, and finishing my WIP, Pelorus Jack.

Most of all, though, I was an emotional wreck. My kids and their father left on Friday for Germany. I stayed at home in the empty nest.

My husband grew up and lived most of his live in Germany until I "imported" him to the U.S. after we got married. Since the girls are a blend of two cultures, we try really hard to get them over to Germany once a year to visit family and friends. This year, we decided they were old enough for a deeper "cultural immersion" program. We're sending them to school there. Which means, I won't see them for several weeks. A lifetime.

I was scared and nervous. They were scared and nervous. I'm pretty sure I sprouted countless new gray hairs within those last hours leading up to their flight. The closer it got, the more I asked myself, Why am I doing this? Is it that important for them to be able to speak and understand German?

After I had a good cry, a glass of wine, and a serious portion of Jane Austen, I came to the same conclusion I'd been coming to all year. Sometimes doing what is best in the long run means surmounting some steep short run costs.

My motivation is all experiential. My family is a big, Hungarian family. My generation, however, is the first that didn't learn to speak Hungarian. My grandfather (1st generation American) speaks, writes and reads it. My father (2nd generation) learned only to speak it, and gradually lost it when he grew up. I (3rd generation) only learned to curse in it. Not very useful when trying to communicate in Budapest at age 19, let me tell you.

More than that, though, my whole life I've always felt like there was this big part of my family, my culture, my own history that was lost to me. Moving to America was definitely a step up for us, but we left behind family and traditions in Hungary. Ones I will never really get to know because linguistically, I've lost the tying thread.

I don't want my kids to feel like that. I want them to feel a part of both of their cultures. I also feel like tolerance grows from a more organic and personal relationship to various cultures. One begins to see that things can be done differently and it's still great. Diversity is the spice of life.

So, they start school on Thursday in Germany. Our friends with whom the girls are staying have two boys the same age. They live in a small town. My kids will be the star guests at their school. I'm so excited for them. It's going to be the experience of a lifetime.

If only I could miss them a little less....

12 comments:

Ello said...

Oh wow! Well that is wonderful for the kids but I can just imagine how sad you must be. Hopefully the time will pass quickly and you will be reunited very soon!

Rena said...

HUGS Stacy! I know how you feel. My daughter hasn't been gone a week yet, but it feels like a lifetime. Sad thing is, she won't be home again until November!

I think it's great you're letting your kids experience some of their heritage like that. I'm sure they'll come home changed and enriched for the better.

PJ Hoover said...

I cannot imagine a month without my family. It is both a scary and an exciting thought!

kaye said...

hope they hurry home :)

Barrie said...

What a wonderful experience you're giving your kids, Stacy. Hang in there. xo

Christina Farley said...

Wow! That does seem like a long time but it will go so fast and I'm sure your kids will love it! What a wonderful opportunity you are giving them. And congrats on finishing your second draft too!

Stacy Nyikos said...

Thanks, everyone. I really appreciate the support! I'm self-soothing with Jane Austen's "Pride & Prejudice", the looooonnnnngggg Colin Firth version, lots of writing, and working in the garden. My strategy is to make myself so tired, I repress the feeling sad part. Very high-functioning, I know. At least I haven't reached for the chocolate...yet.

adrienne said...

Oh, I would have a hard time with that also. What a wonderful opportunity for them, though.
Sounds like the perfect opportunity to catch up on some chick flicks...

Okie Book Woman said...

This sounds like a very wise thing to do, Stacy. When my son was 13, I sent him to live with my sister in Alaska for a year. Many people questioned that decision, but I knew in my heart that it would be good for both of us. And it was! I missed him terribly, but some very good things came out of that year. I'm sure your girls will gain so much from this experience.

GutsyWriter said...

I totally APPROVE. I'm not sure how old your girls are, but this is something they'll learn from. My parents sent me on a plane from Paris to LA, alone, when I was 9 for a month, to stay with my cousins. In those days, planes landed in Greenland. I am grateful for the independence they taught me. I sent my son to Paris at 14, and then he stayed 2 weeks on a sailboat in Turkey with relatives. Thanks for broadening their horizons.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

How wonderful for them to have the best of both worlds, though. I cannot imagine how much this informs their understanding and appreciation of the world.
Get busy on a new manuscript--the time will fly while they're gone;)

Stacy Nyikos said...

I'm writing like crazy! And revamping the garden, working out. I swear, my face looks like I've lost ten years. No more wrinkle lines. I totally get that Simpsons episode when Bart and Lisa go away to camp and their parents get all young. I love my kids. LOVE THEM. But a week without them has been a lot of fun.