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The Truth About Kids and Transitions

We’re just shy of our two month anniversary in Oaxaca. The kids have been enrolled in school since mid-August, so it’s a nice vantage point to take stock of what’s happened and how everyone is adjusting.

You know you can count on me to be brutally honest.

The first three weeks of school totally sucked. Tantrums were thrown, tears were shed, and it wasn’t just the little people. There were meetings with the director, the teachers, the school psychologist, and of course informal family meetings around the breakfast and dinner table.

One could argue that schools are perhaps the most important carrier of a country’s cultural norms. So it makes sense, this would be where we would experience our first pangs of culture shock.

Mexico is extremely traditional when it comes to education. School uniforms, teacher at the front of the classroom, students in their seats, not much group work, and textbooks galore. Even for our four-year-old preschooler.

School Report-1Traditional school formation in the morning.

And while my ideal learning environment is more play based and learner-led, there is an undeniable warmness between teachers and students that has been regulated out of US schools.  People in general are much more expressive in latin america, and Mexico is no exception. So this affection and one big family approach toward life, doesn’t stop at the classroom doors. It’s really lovely to see a teacher scooping up a distraught child in his or her arms without fear of being reported for inappropriate behavior. Or other kids crowding around, as my son cries, asking what’s wrong, and reaching out their hands in comfort.

Despite the compassion coming from students and teachers alike, Jaxon whined and sniveled every morning before school for three solid weeks.  He didn’t want to go and do “boring work.” We argued over the uniform, the homework, every little detail; and I was hit with a relentless barrage of six year old whys, that I had no good answer for.  I debated with myself, if I should move him down to Kindergarden where he wouldn’t have the academic pressure, and could focus on language acquisition. I tortured myself with second guessing every decision we’d made. Diego and I would argue, and then I would brood. Not fun.

At morning drop-offs, Serafina would cling to me like a child in fear of drowning. With the school psychologist, teachers and administration looking on in the small school yard,  I would give reassuring hugs and kisses. I would then try to physically unclamp the surprisingly strong tangle of limbs clenched down on my leg, before walking off alone with my head in a torrent of self rebuke and my heart in a million pieces.

The decision to come to Mexico was my husband’s and mine. My children were more than happy in California.

Was I robbing them of a normal childhood? Were they going to suffer from some weird detachment disorder because they move every few years and lose the friendships they’ve grown? Will they have low self esteem, because they’ve been thrown into a sink or swim immersion situation with Spanish? I could easily lose myself down this freeway of self-doubt, if I didn’t find a reasonable exit fast.

Amidst this sea of uncertainty, there was one small thing that buoyed my hope. Every afternoon, we would arrive to the school to find them both running around the playground having a seemingly grand time.

Our dinnertime ritual is a gratitude practice. Each family members shares what their favorite part of the day was, and something they are grateful for. At some point over those miserable three weeks, Jaxon’s favorite part of the day went from a negative rant about everything, to a simple answer of “school.”

“What part of school, honey?” I asked, eager to hear more.

“The whole thing, Mom,” he’d reply nonchalantly. “I know pretty much everyone, and they understand me when I speak Spanish. I like school.”

Words cannot describe the relief that washed over my body each night as he would share something that happened in his classroom or on the playground, and contentment became our new normal. Serafina no longer clings to me like I’m a life raft in the mornings, and Jaxon no longer picks a fight about anything and everything. We made it!

School Report-2My little gringo just a little out of step, and the only one wearing short sleeves. We’re so close to nailing it.
School Report-3Happy kids! Scooters and skateboards make the 20 minute walk to school fun,
even if there are several broken sidewalks we have to walk not ride.

So here we are at the 7 week mark, and my kids are feeling at home. In hindsight the struggle seems a small price to pay for the benefits of my children experiencing another culture, language and country. But for anyone going through those initial weeks of adjustment, or planning a move abroad, go easy on yourself. Those growing pains are indeed painful, and it’s okay to say so.

Tiffiney Lozano is the creator of the Mama Said Project and two crazy humans. She offers workshops for women craving connection with themselves and the world around them. After 18- months of continuous travel she and her family are finding adventure in the everyday from the comfort and beauty of their home in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Lake Tahoe.
12 Comments... add your own
  • Zoe
    October 15, 2015, 8:45

    Hi Tiffany! When It was recommended by a friend to check out your Blog, I immidiately recognized you from meeting you a handful of times a few years back through some mutual friends, Dax and Kimberly. Saraphina was just a babe on the breadth at that time and I remember connecting with you over conversations about the challenges of motherhood and life decisions around where and how to raise them (I myself was newly transplanted in Truckee with few friends and no family) and could then and now SO RELATE to all the struggles and challenges of balancing motherhood with a life of adventure, community and self nurturing. I’m so happy to have found your blog and see that you and Diego are successfully fulfilling your dreams and creating a beautiful reality for your family!! All the best on your adventures! I look forward to following them online and perhaps catching up face to face sometime in the future!

    • October 15, 2015, 9:20

      Aw thanks for stopping by and saying hi Zoe!
      I would love to catch up – Tahoe is still very much home. One of my favorite places in the world!

      Yes- us mamas have to keep it real…it’s not all sunshine and smiles. Any yet- it’s the best thing ever.

      Let you know next time we’re there!


  • Sara Frigo
    September 30, 2015, 8:10

    I so enjoy your posts and can actually envision all of what you are describing. Whenever I am experiencing those wonderfully endearing moments with my children or the frustrating, teary eyed, “I just want to throttle you” moments, I always end up thinking of Kahlil Gibran’ s Prophet speaking of children. You are a strong archer Tiffiney.

    • September 30, 2015, 2:22

      Kahlil Gibran is one of my all time favorites.

      I never knew parenting would cause such massive self doubt- but it makes sense that your life view changes and evolves with the creation of life, doesn’t it!

      Thanks for stopping by- we appreciate your support!

  • Robin Thielman
    September 29, 2015, 1:15

    Great Blog Tiffany!!!
    I love hearing about all your adventures and find myself relating on so many levels.
    However, I have not moved to the extent you and your family has, I am a single parent that has braved the move out of our lovely little town of Quincy in the sights of a different view, Only to have moved back to little Quincy 3 years later. I have also been dealt all the trivial questions that children hurl at us parents, Why??, How come??, but all my friends are in Quincy… it goes on and on.

    I commend you for taking the road less traveled and trusting in the journey. I am firm in the knowing that all things work out and that life is meant to be lived and that it is an ADVENTURE!!! Good for you for living it!!! Thank you for giving me the knowledge that other parents have the same experiences no matter where they land.
    Keep up the fantastic work.
    I look forward to reading more about your Journey of life.

    • September 29, 2015, 1:22

      Thank you for you sweet words Robin- I admire you and your courage and refusal to settle! We have to give our kids a solid message that they deserve happiness by first living that message.
      I look forward to crossing paths in Quincy sometime soon! Welcome home. Xo

  • September 29, 2015, 9:43

    That’s awesome Tiffiney! What a road to go down. Congrats!

    • September 29, 2015, 9:55

      Thank Lisa- how is everything in your neck of the woods?

  • September 29, 2015, 8:47

    Wow such proof of children’s (and humans) capacity to adapt. This story demonstrates that although transition can be difficult, if we are open and persist we often come to love the thing we feared.

    Bravo to you for facing your own doubts and maintaining your path. Having your children raised in another culture is probably one of the best gifts you can give them.

    • September 29, 2015, 9:15

      Aw that means a lot coming from you Danila, as know you can Claudia had the experience of Columbia and Germany growing up. It helps to see adults reflect back with warm memories and gratitude. I tell myself that I’m the only one beating myself up–they don’t know anything different!

      Thanks for your kind words.

  • Martha Gonzi
    September 29, 2015, 8:28

    I must say you are both pretty brave to be taking on the challenges of moving to Mexico. Love your stories, keep on writing.
    Wishing you the best always.

    • September 29, 2015, 8:46

      Thanks Martha! Brave is one way of putting it. All in all, it’s been a great experience. Though I could certainly do without the stomach adventures!

      Thanks for joining us, it’s more fun to share our misadventures!
      Tiffiney Lozano recently posted…The Truth About Kids and TransitionsMy Profile

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