Any man wants his son to be cut in his own image, a “chip off the old block” as we say in English. But when raising your boy in another country, how? How could C-Bass be a little Colin if he grows up in Peru?
I’ve met plenty of children raised by Latino-gringa and gringo-Latina couples. In my experience and as you would guess, the kids adopt the culture of the country where they grew up.
And that’s where I panic, because we plan to raise the boy in Lima. I picture my boy as one of these little pseudo-gringos and think, “Man, if he speaks English with an accent, watches soccer, or has long hair, it’d be like he’s not even my boy.”
I don’t want to live in America, but I do want an American boy. If he’s at Grandpa’s house and I tell him to cut the grass, I don’t want any lip about it. I don’t even want him to ask how to start the mower. I want him to be an old hand. I want a boy who can work on a crew of laborers and not be the wimp. I want a boy who plays American football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. Not a kid with the shoulders of a soccer player who falls and acts hurt when hit. And definitely no long hair and no “espeak Eeng-leesh” accent.
But if he grows up in Lima, he will think soccer is cool. That is unavoidable. And he probably will believe that boys like him (not starving son of gringo) are entitled not to cut grass. He might even disown the English language. How do you combat that?
But I don’t want everything about him to be American. I don’t want the insular mentality Americans have (see case study). The vast majority of my social and family networks in St. Louis live in their hometowns – many in the same zip codes. When I first moved to South America, people couldn’t believe it. Aside from the “You’ll get kidnapped” thing, people couldn’t understand why I’d move there, despite today’s reality of globalization. I want an American boy, but I also want a bicultural kid with a sense of the world at large. A kid whose dreams are global.
In world politics, you hear Europeans criticizing the Americans for being naive. Or unrealistically optimistic. When you’re an American following world politics, you think they’re losers. But when you live abroad for long enough, you start to see what they mean about Americans. I see it now, I get it. I see it in myself, at least myself before I’d been many places, and I don’t want it for my kid.
And before I start pounding into his brain how gay of a sport soccer is, I need to strategize how the boy will get into college. Assuming he’s a good athlete and student, there may be enough competition in Lima basketball for him to get good enough for a DIII scholarship … maybe. But there’s plenty of soccer. That’s really all there is, so competition’s fierce and players get good, at least compared to America, where nobody plays (no men anyway). So that’s the smart way for a LatAm-raised kid to pay for school – soccer scholarship. I knew loads of Latin students who got full rides in America that way.
As for English, that’s also tougher than it seems. Before he was born, I decided I’d speak ONLY English with him. But I doubt I’m the first one with that brilliant idea. And as soon as he was born I realized it’s a difficult commitment because many conversations include the boy’s mother. Even now, when he may not have any clue there are two different languages, I speak Spanish if his mother is in the conversation. When I need to speak to both of them, which is a lot more often than you’d think, I will probably speak Spanish. That means family conversations will be in Spanish unless I get Milagros to commit to my vision of an American boy. And this may be surprising, but Milagros is not 100% supportive of the American boy outlined in this article.
Support what Expat Chronicles is all about. Leave a tip to keep the laughs coming (and the news, insight and other stuff too).