Run, Baby, Run!

Our housekeepers M&M (whom  I love dearly, I have to add) are always a fountain of wisdom when it comes to raising a child. (Some of you might still remember the pregnancy tips I received.) So, dear mothers, this is for you (and of course for everyone else who finds these old wives’ tales entertaining).

If you want your child to walk, there are 2 options which you might find helpful:

  1. Apply some raw egg white to the hollow of their knees. Don’t ask me why this should work. I asked, but apparently it is just some kind of miracle remedy. I have to ask for a good use for the egg yolk, as I would hate to see it go to waste, though. Maybe applying egg yolk to your left ear will make you better at mathematics?
  2. Put your baby on hot sand. He will run in an instance, they assured me. Really? Maybe we should carry all fat people to the beach on a hot day and have them run, too. Weight loss guaranteed.

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What children teach me at school

Recently, upon entering our school, I heard one of our kids’ groups singing the nursery song “If you’re happy and you know it”. Probably, most of you know this song but I found a very cute version on YouTube in case you don’t (and it’s worth watching anyway, the kids are so cute!).

The first line goes “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”, and when I saw and heard all children enthusiastically clapping their hands, it hit me: If you asked a group of adults that those who were happy clap their hands – do you think everybody would clap? Anybody? I believe, only a minority would clap their hands, because not many claim to be hands-clappingly, feet-stompingly happy. (It would probably be different if you asked those who want a new car or new shoes to clap – I certainly would join in!)

Group of five happy children jumping outdoors.

Group of five happy children jumping outdoors. (Photo credit: Lighttruth)

However, when I was watching the children with their bright smiles, I could tell they were really, really happy, because they were just living in that very moment. Yes, children too have their worries, and as small as they might seem to us grown-ups, they can be pretty haunting for a child. Nevertheless, when they get the opportunity to sing and dance and draw and play, they forget everything around them and are just happy. It is a shame that we forget how to do that!

Here in Mexico, most families don’t live a luxury life. From an early age on, many need to support their families in that they sell newspapers or bag groceries. You would think that therefore, European or US kids would be a lot happier but I doubt it. In our highly developed world, there is a lot of pressure, both on children and on their parents. Children attend special schools to learn a second language from an early age on, toys have to be educational, and at school they learn to be strongly competitive – everything in order to succeed later in life. Of course, we all have the best of intentions, all parents just want what’s best for their children. But whatever we do, we think about the future before we think about the present, and somewhere along the line, the carefree gaiety gets lost.

Most Mexicans (at least that’s what I experienced in Yucatan) don’t worry much about the future. They hardly think further than from morning till night. Maybe that’s their secret, because they never stop giggling and laughing, and very often it seems to me that they are much happier than we are in our spoilt lives.

To them, family is everything. Whenever they get a day off, they all get together, they pack their baskets, go to the beach, play some ball games (many get drunk, that might be the downside) and just have a good time. And they know that when something bad happens, the family will stick up for them. I for myself haven’t seen my family in a looong time, and experience taught me that in bad times, there are only very few in my family whom I can rely on. Everybody is just so busy shaping their lives to perfection without ever getting there. It seems to me that the better people are off, the more absorbed in their lives and the more isolated they become.

if you're happy and you know it

if you’re happy and you know it (Photo credit: l e o j)

If I had to name one thing that I learned here, it would be to really seize the moment. I don’t mean that we should stop paying into our retirement funds or do whatever comes to our mind no matter the consequences but I wish that sometimes, I could also become so absorbed by the moment that nothing else matters. As my wise friend Miss N. put it, we all have to find that inner child to be happy.

On a totally different note: Did I just give you a catchy song? For I for sure have one!

Friends don’t grow on Trees

For a year now, we have been living in Mexico, and many people ask me, whether I had made any friends yet. Well, I am lucky that by now, I consider our landlady my friend, although we hardly plan any activities together. Whenever we meet, though, we are chatting away, forgetting the time and she has indeed become very dear to me.

Other than that, the answer is no, we haven’t made any friends yet. Acquaintances yes, colleagues yes, but friends? They do not grow on trees, do they?

Maybe this is one of the most challenging issues of living the expat life. When you stay in your home town or at least your home country, you stick with the same crowd more or less forever. Some may come, some may go, but you already know where to go. You have your routine, you know that some of your friends are going to the farmers’ market every Saturday, while others go to the same bar every Friday night – it is a cozy life. And you don’t really feel the urge to find new friends, do you?

So here comes the expat looking for friends and those circles are already full. You don’t belong to the market crowd, nor to the Friday night crowd and it hardly occurs to anyone to invite you to join in. Now there are a few people who ignore that and just join in anyway, being invited or not. My husband and I do not belong to this category, maybe it is because we are from the North and they say that people from the North take a little longer to warm up, don’t they?

But even if after a while you meet people to sometimes hang out with, be it for a coffee or a glass of wine or at the gym, those people do not automatically become your friends, do they? I consider people friends when I know that no matter where I live, we will stay in touch. People whom I can call upon anytime. People who are around also in not so happy times.

For children, making friends is easy.

Kids at shore

Kids at shore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We go to the same school – friends. We both don’t like our maths teacher – friends. She also wants to have a pony – friends. I remember how I met my oldest friend: I was sitting on the pavement, she came along and sat down next to me. 30 years later, we are still best friends. How easy, huh? And how often does that happen to you in grown-up life?

Later, we become a little more particular, but as long as we share the same kind of lifestyle, it’s a done deal.

Bride-to-be (center) and friends share a toast...

Bride-to-be (center) and friends share a toast at a bachelorette party (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She is also single and lives in my neighbourhood – friends. She likes the same movies, the same kind of music, the same bars – friends.

But I find that at a certain age, it is getting more and more difficult. So why is that?

I believe it has something to do with the image we want to create of ourselves. I noticed that (and I used to do the same) whenever we meet new people, everything about their life is perfect. Their relationship – happy. Their job – fulfilling. Their financial status – carefree. We all strive to project this flawless commercial image of ourselves as if admitting that something in our life lacks perfection, makes us less loveable. We believe, that success in whatever area is the only measure for our personality. Thus, our conversations become meaningless. It is quite honestly boring. Because, come on, whose life is that perfect? Who is happy 365 days a year and 24 hours a day? Whose marriage is plain sunshine all the time? And whose job is non-stop fun and excitement and highly paid at the same time?

Only after a while when we know the other person a little better and we start to trust her or him, we reveal what really makes us us. Unfortunately, very often we are deprived of that opportunity after sharing meaningless and shallow details about our oh so perfect life – and by this losing our very personal touch.

I find that I establish the most valuable contacts when I don’t shy away from sharing who I am. And sometimes, it is amazing to see how other people open up and all of a sudden, become so much more complex. In the end, what do we have to lose? If someone doesn’t like us the way we are, it is better to know straight away and to move on. Precious time can be saved. And true, long-lasting friendships can be forged!