05 May 2010

Expat parenting

My 3-year-old: What do monks do?
Me: They care for people.
My 3-year-old: Mama! You're the best monk EVER.

Yesterday, after the monk conversation, the desire to kick back at the local coffee house and have a lazy start to the day overtook me. So, with my husband out of town for business, the kids and I headed to our favorite coffee house to meet a few friends. My bag was full of all the typical mama stuff-- puzzles, coloring sheets, snacks. The sky was overcast and the air was humid.

We arrived at our favorite coffee house, met up with friends, ordered drinks, played, chatted, sipped. And, then... the torrential rains started.

We eventually reached departure time, but the rains were still coming down and we were umbrella-less. With their kids melting down, my friends eyed the humid rain and chose to make a very wet dash for home. No amount of convincing was going to make my kids budge. Rather than fight it, we retreated back for a cup of hot chocolate, froze in the now cranked up air conditioning and waited out the storm. The storm turned to a heavy drizzle and, well past the point where we MUST leave the coffeehouse, I convinced the kids that it 'wouldn't be too bad'. This was our window of escape.

The drizzle continued and on our walk home, my daughter asked to stop at a street vendor's covered stand of little trinkets. She proceeded to negotiate in elementary Thai and her efforts were rewarded with a sparkly new key chain, paid for in baht from her coin purse. We continued our walk home, past the many spirit houses that dot our Bangkok neighborhood. The kids waved and wai-ed (bowed, Thai-style, with palms of their hands pressed together). A hilarious discussion of how tiny the spirits must be to live in such tiny houses made the walk go quicker than usual. Three-fourths of the way home, the skies opened and poured once again. My heart clenched as I anticipated two already wet kiddos complaining. But, instead, they frowned and then started laughing. The remainder of our walk took twice as long as it should have due to the splashing through the giant puddles that had already accumulated.

We returned home to meet a neighbor who looked at us curiously and then proceeded to greet us in Thai. Not missing a beat, and hyper from the morning's wacky twists, the kids answered back with big goofy smiles: Sawadee-kah/kab! They continued to weave the Thai words they knew together in order to impress our neighbor.

In this moment, soaking wet and happy, I realized that my children are having a completely different childhood than I ever imagined for them. Sure, I thought we'd get caught in rainstorms and splash our way home. And, yes, I thought we'd meet up with friends for coffee and I'd pack my bag full of 'kid-stuff'. But, I never expected to stroll with my three and six-year-old past spirit houses, have conversations about monks, watch them interact in a foreign language and negotiate for toys in a foreign currency--- AND, have it seem completely normal to them. There are times that are trying and there are stories to tell that point to the negative of parenting overseas. But, in this moment, I recognized that we have created a rich, vibrant, happy childhood full of adventures and love. After all, isn't that what every parent, regardless of where they live, dreams of for their little ones?

Cooking in Thailand, entry no 84:
Rainbow cookies
Named by my daughter ("they look like they got stuck in a rainbow"), these cookies are a fun recipe to cook with the kids. Make the batter and roll the cookies, in advance, then let the kids in your life help with the sprinkle application. Perfect for a rainy afternoon.

1/2 cup of butter
1 cup of sugar
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of Cream of Tartar
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
approximately 1 cup of tiny multicolored round sprinkles

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Then, proceed by adding the rest of the ingredients one at a time, stirring well in between. Form the dough into small balls, about half the size of a golf ball. Roll in the sprinkles to cover entirely and place on a silicone lined baking sheet. Press gently with a fork, once. Bake 8-10 minutes until flattened. Watch closely as the cookies should not brown at all-- do not overcook! Remove from oven, allow to rest on the cooking tray for five minutes and transfer to a cooling rack.


  1. I agree with your 3yo. You are the best monk ever. Great story.

  2. I think the experience that your kids are having is unbelievable and wonderful. (not so much on the riots though) I wish my children had been able to live abroad instead of in Puyallup, although there are definite advantages and disadvantages to both.

  3. Even if I sometimes ask myself questions about how Bibs is going to grow up, expat life is what I always wanted for my child(ren). Your kids are vey lucky - even if Thailand is unfortunately not so stable. I have a friend who might be leaving for Indonesia with her 5 and 2 year old - she is asking herself lots of questions as well.


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