On Being Lucky

I woke up this morning realizing I had a lot of housework and laundry to do.  As I was trying to enjoy my coffee and ignore those facts, I also realized that it was time for another blog post.  I still have many pics to post from my trip to Side, and my recent trip to Beypazari, but that will take too much time for today.  So I thought I would write a quick post on just how lucky I am – in fact – we all are.

If any of you have children, you know that they think their lives are “so hard.”  This never fails to crack me up.  They wake up.  They eat, go to school, play sports and/or video games.  Sometimes they do their homework.  They spend hours communicating with friends via many types of electronics.  Then they go back to sleep.  Life is easy.

I have been criticized by many friends who are young mothers.  They say that I just don’t understand because I don’t have children.  To that I always say the same thing.  It is much easier for me to critique from the outside than it is for a mother who is in that situation.   An outsider usually has better capabilities when it comes to witnessing the manipulation of parents by children.  Parents, your children’s lives are easy!  They don’t have to walk to school!  They don’t have to do hours of house chores every day!  They don’t have to care for their 7 younger siblings.  They don’t have to work in fields and factories.  They don’t have to make their own meals.  They don’t have to repair their own clothes. . .  

Of course, children usually always think that adults don’t understand how hard their lives are.  You often hear that line, “Things are different now.”  But things have not really changed.  There has always been drugs and alcohol, although maybe not as prevalent.  There have always been fabulous romances ended abruptly and followed by unbearable broken hearts.  There has always been the jealousy of what more affluent friends own.  Parents in the old days just didn’t give in to that as easily. There have always been the haves and the have nots.  Parent back in the day did not overspend so that their kids could keep up with the Joneses.  Instead, they pressed their clothes, mended the holes, and taught their kids a little lesson in life.  I remember a story where my niece, who grew up in the South, was embarrassed to bring a small gift to her teacher, because her mother wrapped it in wall paper, the only thing she had in the house.  Surprisingly to my niece, the teacher raved about how beautiful that paper was.  The little poor girl was treated better that day than any of the “haves.”

Even more amusing to me are the young parents you will look my mother in the face and tell her that it is much harder to raise one, two, or three children now then it was for her to raise fourteen decades ago.  Actually, I shouldn’t call this amusing.  It raises anger in my mother and makes me want to just slap those mothers for their complete stupidity.  Mom didn’t have a TV where she could plop the little ones in front of.   She didn’t have disposable inserts for plastic bottles.  She boiled her glass bottles every night.  She didn’t have disposable diapers, or even a diaper service.  She laundered the cloth diapers daily.  She didn’t have options for day cares and nannies.  She didn’t have the luxury of hiring baby sitters – although the older children chipped in when she needed to run to the grocery store or the Church.  Those were about the only two places she went.

Speaking of Church brings me to what this blog post is about.  When my mom moved to the States from Germany back in the 1940’s, she joined the local Church.  In addition to what she learned from living with Pop’s mom, this is where she made her friends, learned about American life, tried new recipes, and found answers to her questions. 

I am lucky.  My life is much more easy than that.  As an expat living in Ankara, I have access to a wealth of information.  I have the internet.  I have cheap telephone access so I can pick up the phone and ask mom how to make mac & cheese.  I have access to what is known as “list serves.”  These are basically groups of people that I can email simultaneously.  I have joined two of these groups here.  One is specifically for expats living in Ankara.  The other is a list of foreign wives married to Turks.  If I have a question, anything from how to get a work permit, to how to impress aTurkish in-law, to where to go for a good bagel, I email these groups and get responses immediately.

When Mom yearned for home, she likely went out into her garden, sang a German tune to herself, and had a good cry.  When I yearn for home, I get on Skype where I can call and see anyone I want in the U.S. and it’s free.  When I yearn for West Chester, I turn on the TV and can catch BAM up to his shenanigans on MTV in good old Turks Head, U.S. of A.  When I yearn for Philly, I can open up my fridge and eat some of that yummy Philadelphia Cream Cheese that I brought back from Germany on my last visit.

As an expat in 2010, life may sometimes seem difficult, but it’s so much easier than Mom had it.  The biggest difference is that when I want to go home, I will get online, use a credit card whether I have money or not, and be back in the U.S. the next day.  I would work out how to pay for that ticket later.  When Mom wanted to go home, she needed to make trips to travel agents and have the cash in hand, an amount of cash that was simply unthinkable at that time.

Being an expat is a wonderful experience and an easy life, as long as I just keep reminding myself that it’s not the 1940’s anymore!  I have access to everything!  And I thank God every day that Mom had the Church.  She still does.


3 thoughts on “On Being Lucky

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  1. Thanks for putting things into perspective.

    I got a bad rap from some of my fellow parents when I refused to do things for my daughter that she could do for herself.

    She packed for all trips starting at age eight. She did her own laundry starting at ten. She did her own homework from school. I remember her looking at me aghast when I told her I’d passed the fourth grade, and didn’t need to do it again.

    It’s called teaching independence. Parents who fail to do that have failed at the major task of parenting.

  2. Great post – you sound like me preaching to younger parents I know. Most of the parents and kids we know should be on their knees every morning thanking God for what they have. I know parents who think Lenore Skenazy (http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/) is a nut, and she just lets her kid do what most normal people would, IMHO. One reason I love the Boy Scouts, get these kids away from their parents to play with sharp instruments, fire, cook for themselves, and have a great time with sticks and bugs, and work things out for themselves.

    Our parents lived lives most people today would find unbelievable, yet they did just fine in the long run.

    One question, you can get a decent bagel in Turkey? As good as New York?

  3. Joe, thanks for introducing me to that blog.

    When my daughter went off the rails as a teenager, we both went to Hyde School (A Character-First School with a mandatory Family Education Program).

    As I grew into a leader in that program, I gained a considerable insight into family dynamics. One extreme was these over-protective families who imbue their offspring with a sense of entitlement.

    I used to ask such parents: “When did you learn the most about yourself?”

    The response was usually along the lines of: “That time I was driving cross country with my two buddies, we were down to our last $10, and the car broke down.” Or, “When I drove my parents’ car without permission, had an accident, and my parent’s insisted I pay for the increase in their insurance rates.”

    I would say then: “You’re telling me that you learned who you are from digging deep to solve a real life problem on your own. Does it make sense now to keep your student from having that same experience by bailing them out of trouble?”

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