People are constantly asking me what it’s like to live in another country. And I tell them about security and education, about freedom, difficulties with the language and the pride they will feel for being brave.
But there is one more detail.
Be ready to become the mother you have never been.
Almost daily I try to remember what my children’s pediatrician in Brazil used to say. She insisted: children can’t be surrounded only by joy. You are creating human beings and they need to understand frustration, longing and loss. It’s better to step aside, because life will not spare them.
I never forgot a single date. The days when the school shirt had to be white. I was the mother of balanced snacks, impeccable Portuguese, the one that always sat in the front row, that read all items on the agenda. The mom who knew about every school event and what time she needed to be on her way to arrive promptly, figuring in the traffic and the time to park the car, and be amazing.
And then, almost two years after landing here, today my son cried alone in the middle of the schoolyard because I did not send him with an item he needed. Again. He cried because, unlike all his friends, he had no security. And it was at this moment that I realized: I had become a different mom.
I am the mother full of weakness and who can not communicate. The mother to whom children who are half my size pantomime to explain that the party is on the second floor. The mother that in a doctor’s office asks for everything to be repeated slowly and yet who loses a third of the information. The mother who looks like a child trying to explain something to the principal. The mother who can not solve all the problems she wants because she has landed in a different society. The one who is barely able to follow the conversation with other mothers who communicate in a crazy language in which letters are symbols without vowels. The mother who can not help her kids with their homework. The one who comes from a society in which the middle class had help and suddenly finds herself lost with a series of other things she didn’t know how to do till yesterday. The mother who takes thirty minutes to translate emails from the school. The mother who did not understand that today her little boy needed to take an extra bag, yesterday a piece of cloth, and a colorful shirt the day before that. The newbie mom.
And as much as you strive, there will be days – many – in which you will question the crazy decision that brought you here. Because you were prepared to become the woman pushing 40 who needs to prove herself at every single moment and who sees compassion instead of admiration when trying to communicate. But not the mother who, exhausted, loses patience constantly, cooks sausage for dinner every night and has to face the fact that, in the eyes of her children, she is no longer a giant.
I finally arrived at school for my child’s end-of-year presentation, already knowing that he had cried. So I knelt to look into his eyes, hugged him and apologized. For how I had failed and, he knew, for how much I am still going to fail.
And he did not cry.
“Mom, it’s okay. Hila gave me her hand, helped me and I discovered that I have a good friend.”
It hurts to be the newbie mom. But in this imperfection, so far from being made only of joys, my children’s pediatrician was right: I am creating a true human being.