On the surface, having 4 teenage daughters in the house did seem very intimidating. Not all daughters are as “good” as my girls. After having lived under my “dictatorial” authority for all of their lives, we somehow have become pretty good friends. Having exchange students in the house gave our family a chance to be exposed to other cultures (we have no idea how a family in another country could send their young teenage daughters to another country to visit a family they have never met before.) Importing a school years worth of culture experiences seems to be a very good value on our end. (The small private school my daughters go to has not had exchange students for over 6 years.) We hope the end of the year fulfills just a fraction of the expectations we have put on our “wish” list. Our two students certainly make us think it will be far exceeded.
Early on, the biggest benefit seems to be the number of willing hands available in the kitchen. In the above pictures, the girls are preparing spinach wraps for lunch. At our house, wraps and/or fajitas (or even quesadillas) can be a way to clean out a couple different warmups. And, this meal was no exception. Besides the vegetable options of green onions, lettuce, spinach, cucumbers and tomatoes, there were the meat options of grilled chicken, bbq chicken thighs, or fajita steak meat. Once these incredibly difficult decisions were made, one of two cheeses needed to be chosen before choosing one of 5 salad dressings. (our students preferred mixing dressings with Italian being very necessary in either). Before I forget, this is an additional benefit to me because I was able to take pictures and observe during the whole process.
The exchange student screeners must be very good at finding potential students who have a good supply of energy and enthusiasm for nearly everything. “Want to help with lunch?” or “Want to go to Walmart?” or even “Want to play a game?” becomes a party since there is a near guarantee of 2 willing exchange student participants. With the addition of all of their adrenaline, the house is a place with more laughs, noises and attempts (some attempts do fail) at humor with the ability to cross cultural boundaries. It has been very fun.
It is a shame their purpose in coming is so they can go to school, too. Trying to go to a school and learn in a different language is certain to limit their ability to volunteer or fully participate in the “fun” we have tried to lay as a foundation in our household. As with our own kids, we (my wife and I AND our older, commuting college son when he is available) will just try and be available for the girls. If they want to do a puzzle or need help with homework or need to have something in English explained, we want to be with their to fulfill our obligation to them. And, if our brains get stretched during the whole process, we won’t have to spend time on some website doing brain gymnastics.
We can embrace the days, the moments and the events of a life with 4 teenage daughters. They are not sisters (yes, 2 of the 4 are), but if we treat them enough like sisters, we give them an experience and a truckload of memories to carry throughout their entire lives. Relationships and the very hard to acquire “close relationships” are something money cannot buy. This year of the 4 teenagers is a priceless experience that may appear “hard” from the outside. But, it is not. (There will be a hiccup or 2 or 3 or….) Every day is an invitation to learn about a culture and to invest in the lives of those given to me by God(2 daughters), and those borrowed from Asia. This sounds like a much better invitation than the demands of rising everyday to earn a paycheck. Shame on me if I don’t jump out of bed to grab hold of every moment the day offers me. (If only cross-country did not demand leaving the house before 6 AM for the next two months.)