My oh my oh my! Time most definitely does fly. This morning, as I was sitting in the Rigodanza Auditorium at ICO, looking out on the nearly 300-strong “Generación 59” graduating class, I just kept seeing them as youngsters! What a journey this has been.
Six years ago, after our son Danny graduated primary school, we moved here to Mazatlán, Sinaloa, México, where he would start junior high. He didn’t speak Spanish, though he’d worked with a tutor twice a week for a year. So many people told us how crazy we were.
- “Why in the world would you leave a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence for a Mexican school?”
- “How dare you neglect your kid in this way! It is irresponsible parenting to move with a child to such a dangerous place.”
- “We are from here. If we had any way to educate our kids anywhere else, we would. I can’t believe you’ve purposefully brought your son to Mazatlán.”
Well, we did purposefully bring our kid here. We wanted him to grow up as a member of a minority, to know how that feels—to build empathy, and to develop skills for living as a minority—a skill any global nomad needs, a valuable life skill, and one he may very well be needing soon as a “white boy” in his birth country (USA). So we had a passion and commitment in our choice to move here. But, really, with so many people, locals and foreigners, scolding us with such abandon for the past six years, what parent wouldn’t second-guess herself?
The past six years have not always been easy. Watch what you wish for! As a minority, Danny was (inadvertently) excluded from so many important communications about school, social gatherings, and sports practices. It was hard not to feel left out. He is a good actor, and was given one of the starring roles in a school play—unfortunately it was that of the ugly American boss who treats immigrants poorly and is only out for money. Really? Give me a break!
The first six months of our stay here were painful. As the person in our household with the best Spanish, it fell on me to tutor our son every night. Remember that in the eyes of a 13 year old boy, Moms know NOTHING. It was so frustrating, such a test of my patience, which is way too thin. Then, one night about six months into our lives here, he went to bed, and the next morning he understood Spanish. It was like a light switch flipped on. He didn’t understand everything, he didn’t speak or write perfectly, but I no longer needed to help him understand what his homework was.
The past few weeks this same young man, 18 now, has been interviewing local business and community leaders about our city’s future, what skills they feel our city needs, and how he might craft his studies and internships during university so that he can come back to Mazatlán and obtain a worthwhile position here. He loves this city as much as we do. He’s Mazatleco now; there is very often a culture gap between his immigrant parents and the Mexican, Blended Culture young man he’s become. Those interviewees are all telling him that his complete fluency in English and Spanish, his fluency with both cultures, is a huge asset that he must not lose when he goes to the US for school. He must find a way to retain and amplify it, ideally by adding Chinese language and culture. Wow.
He’s definitely not the same little boy who celebrated his 13th birthday at our pool with his brand-new school friends here, and was shocked as all get out when they gleefully shoved his face into the cake! What a surprise that was for him, especially when they all laughed. But he is much more flexible than his mother, and he took it all in stride, laughing and vamping for the crowd with frosting covering his face.
To those naysayers, who told us our son would not get a good education here, I am very relieved to have your prognostications proven wrong. Danny received an award from a Mexican university, and has fielded quite a few recruiting calls from other schools in Mexico. He also received six scholarships, several over US$80k, to well-respected US universities. He’s chosen a terrific small liberal arts college with an international focus, located in an ethnically rich metro area. I believe his incredible scholarship success is due, in major part, to the fact that he’s grown up abroad, and that he is able to demonstrate his biculturality and cultural bridging abilities. And the SAT scores show that, indeed, he received a very strong education here at local Mazatlán schools, both in junior high at Andes and in high school at ICO. He sure had a high school curriculum that put mine to shame—law, ecology, philosophy, ethics. My most heartfelt THANK YOUs to all his teachers—elementary, secondary and high school. Bless you for your patience and talent!
Today I had the huge privilege of speaking to Danny’s graduating class. I was part of a panel of six parents, given the opportunity to share with the kids what life has taught us. What an incredible gift for a gringa Mom to feel included in this way! To me it is a testament to the open-mindedness of the Xaverian education at ICO. Our panel included business owners and housewives, parents who graduated from name universities and those who attended technical school, locals as well as those from outside Mazatlán. I loved sitting up front, looking out and seeing the young men and women who have frequented our pool, our home, our beach, my son’s life. I felt distracted as I spoke, so hoping that those kids who are staying in town to study will stay in touch with us, despite the fact that Danny is leaving. Several of them feel like my own children, and I kept getting teary eyed.
For those of you who have followed our family on this journey, thank you for your companionship. I am very happy to report that, so far, the experiment has been a success. As Danny, who did not want to move to Mazatlán in 2008, said to us on our first anniversary here, “One year since the best decision we ever made!”
The next journey will be reentry: learning how to live happily, productively, and multiculturally, in the US of A. And, of course, learning how to do those same things in college!
Linked to the My Global Life Link-Up at SmallPlanetStudio.com