Pre-Exchange Student Jitters


Today my life will begin a 10 month (or so) period of adjusting.  No, I am not undergoing any medical procedures.  And, I am not starting a new job.  On Thursday, I will become an “exchange dad”.

In the past, our family has done fostering.  (Foster kids in the house = foster dad.)  In this role, I had some ups and downs.  The kids the county brought into our house and gave us the opportunity to parent had a variety of challenges.  None of those challenges are expected with these two.  The “big” issue is going to be cultural.  We are going to have to try and “Americanize” them while allowing ourselves to me slightly converted to their cultures.  (The “slight” may vary from individual to individual household member, but we are pretty sure they will be rubbing off on us a little…)

Since being assigned the two girls, we have been sending a couple of emails back and forth every week.  We know about their families (one girl has a “little father”–her father’s twin brother) and we have some idea what they may be interested in once they get here.  We know one is a Christian and one has no affiliation.  We know their age, country of origin, and birthdays. All of this really tells us nothing about how we might interact with them.  Yes, emails can give you a little information.  An email will not tell you if it took them 1/2 hour to write a few lines as they translated from their foreign language; it won’t tell you if they were smiling when they wrote it, or how anxious they were about leaving their native culture for a few months.

This is where I come in as the exchange dad.  My kids will tell you (as will many of their friends)…I am a little quirky.  If my kids are any indication, I must be on the “right” side of quirky.  As I have enjoyed the quizzical looks on my kids faces as I have tried to invite them into some brain aerobics, I look forward to doing the same with the exchange students.  As their English skills grow, I look forward to continuing to stretch their grasp of the language.  I realize I need to have mercy on them.  As those who look cross-eyed are warned “they may stay that way”, if they look quizzical too long, I have to be concerned their faces might also “stay that way” if there brain is stretched beyond is normal elasticity.

Unfortunately, my kids are used to all of my old, stale jokes.  Although they do ask me to repeat them at certain intervals or act disappointed if I fail to attempt a fresh delivery of the “overplayed” material, I need a new audience.  Reworking my dad material for a new set of kids w/ a different cultural background is a a challenge I am anxious to take on.  There is a chance I may fail and find out my humor and “dadness” don’t cross cultural boundaries. The emails already exchanged with them make me think this will not be the case….   If I need to, I will develop some new material and give my old (nearly half century old) brain a project for the coming year.  Looking forward to what stretch marks I have to show when the school year draws to a close!

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