This month Emme graduated into the 1st grade. In El Salvador this is a big deal, with a cap and gown ceremony, and other grades singing to the new members of the elementary class.
I am proud to say that through all the trauma of adjusting to a new language and new culture, to adjusting to moving to the beach and having both parents return to working, she has shown herself to be strong and flexible and communicative about what she is feeling.
Unlike her mother she is open, friendly, bold, and demanding. I have yet to decide if these are lucky traits, or some skills she developed during all these changes. I have noticed many immigrant children develop strong social skills if they handle the changes well.
The part I get a little uncomfortable with is when she is chattering away, using all kinds of Salvadoran slang I don’t understand, speaking with the local police officers and bartenders as though she were in charge of the place. I’m never sure exactly what I am hearing, though of course she gets all kinds of free passes for being a hilarious 6 year old gringa trading trash talk with whoever will listen. The other day I took too long to fix her bike and she walked to the local police station when I blinked. She had two cops out in the road working in her bike by the time I realized she wasn’t standing next to me anymore. Later, I tried to explain I didnt have my wrench, and she loves cops because I used to be one blah blah blah, but they just looked at me like I was an alien. Either it goes without saying that Emme can stop by, They aren’t listening to any mom who lets her daughter get a block away in a strip of bars and restaurants, or both.
For other mothers facing the prospect of leaving the USA with a child or children should take heart. Not every family will have the same experience, but there is no reason to fear the changes, or even some of the setbacks themselves. There will be so many tears, but there will also be graduations with certificates in two languages, childhood friends from multiple continents, a new acceptance of circumstances you would have previously found intolerable, and other beautiful experiences you would have previously thought impossible.
Emme went through tearful and fearful phases. She also went through a borderline violent and rebellious phase that had me worried. She is now her intelligent and caring self again, but with new strengths and confidence. After a full year in a new land a child graduates. The children of other expats too. I see the same challenges and fears and strength in them. Instead of laughing at the idea of a preschool graduation, I’m proud of her class!