If you’ve been reading this blog long enough you know that learning how to mother my kids in a new culture has been a big fat challenge for me. It was something I worried about before we moved, and it was THE something I worried about once we landed. Isn’t worrying awesome? It’s just so productive! Not.
It’s just that parenting is hard enough, and then you throw in lots of factors that make our family really “different” and things get downright confusing! I’ve found that we don’t really fit anywhere these days, when it comes to parenting. We don’t fit Ukrainian standards because, well, simply put, we aren’t Ukrainian! We can speak the language (work in progress) and buy the right clothes and eat the right food, but at the end of the day, we’re still Americans. We think differently than Ukrainian parents and we were raised differently than our Ukrainian peers. Culture is so HUGE. There are things we do similarly to Ukrainian parents, but we are also quite different. We could try to be the same, but at our core we’ll always be different- and that’s okay.
But- now we don’t really fit American standards either! For one thing, we don’t live in America, so that changes a whole heck of a lot right there. Many things that are expected for a “normal” childhood in the US just aren’t available or possible here. Our kids are having a completely different childhood than Jed and I had. It’s difficult not to have the same expectations in my heart for them, because all I know is a typical American childhood…yep, not gonna happen for our crew. And that’s okay!
It can feel very “Lone Ranger”ish, parenting so far away from our home culture. I don’t have mom friends I am close to here who are parenting kids around the same ages of ours. I miss the support of others who were going through the mothering stages alongside me. I miss bouncing ideas off each other over coffee and gaining wisdom from others. I miss my kids having friends. I miss having moms around me who are “one step ahead” on the journey. I miss watching them and learning from them. Most mothering and parenting books are really hard for me to read here. It can be discouraging because so much of what is written is based on the assumption that you live in America and have all that is available there, or that the mom’s only focus is on the home and she has no outside responsibilities. It’s hard to explain, but when I read those books in the middle of this life we are living, it almost seems like they are books from another planet.
Honestly, parenting in this situation (or any situation) is just stinkin’ hard work. Awesome, but still stinkin’ hard. Am I right? People ask “How do you do it all?” Um yeah, I don’t. I can’t. Things fall by the wayside. My house is messy. I just paused writing to tell Seth not to throw knives- truth. My kids get lonely. Laundry piles haunt my dreams. I lose my patience daily (or hourly). Homeschooling can get sporadic and is often unorganized. I get lonely. I read mommy blogs (why do I do that?) and feel guilt that I don’t do crafts with my kids. I want to get up early but instead I stay up too late at night. I don’t follow through. And on and on and on.
So, yeah I can’t do it all, but I’m sorta, kinda starting to come to grips with the fact that the Johnson family is on our own journey and ours doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s journey. There is beauty in this particular journey and it’s pointless to waste time wishing it looked differently. I mean, this is the journey God created us to walk. Sooooo I should probably learn to be good with it.
Our kids are loved.
Our kids have each other. They love each other.
Our kids are learning to love and value those who the world has cast aside.
Our kids are learning a new culture and a new way of doing things- and their world is bigger because of it.
Our kids are learning what it is to say YES to Jesus.
I finally feel at peace in mothering, probably for the first time since we moved! I have seen little glimpses lately of the fruit and I see that our journey is beautiful in it’s own way.
-Addy announced to me yesterday “Ezra and I are just best friends lately! We just love each other! We’re hoping to keep this going on for as long as we can.”
-When it was dark out, Seth reached out to help Hava down the stairs to our yard. “I know the dark steps scare you Hava. Hold my arm.”
-Hava asked “Mom, which Romaniv boy would you choose first to come live at our house? I couldn’t choose, they’re all just so cute!”
-Every time we come home from Romaniv Ezra wants to see the pics of the boys right away. He loves them.
-Seth said “Mom, I can share Boris with daddy because he needs a daddy too.”
I write all this to say, own your own journey. God’s Word and God’s grace apply to every life situation- regardless of location. Parenting books and parenting seminars are great (I would love some of that right about now!)- but what is the greatest is saying YES to God when it comes to your children. Don’t compare your journey to your friend’s or your neighbor’s or some random blogger’s. The details of their lives are not the details of your life. Their journey is not your journey. Their kids are not your kids.
(Preaching to myself, FYI)
Teach your kids to say YES to Jesus by saying YES to Jesus yourself.
The rest is sprinkles on top. 🙂
‘it’s not going to happen, and that’s ok’ I’m also getting ok with our life looking like our life. We’re here in my hometown and I also feel like a Lone Range, haven’t felt at home here since I was a child. Most of my friends speak a language that sounds so familiar to me but covers up hidden beauty in their lives, beauty that’s often wrapped in pain because pursuing Christ always changes our homeland. Thanks for sharing the beauty you’re uncovering in your children, it’s encouraging to me.
Judging from your kids’ remarks, you and Jed can write the book on how to parent, titled “Parenting with Jesus”. You are breaking out of the American family mold, which is scary but THAT’S OK!
Hi Kim, I’m a long time friend of Janet Maxim and she shared your blog with me. You and I am much more alike than you know. My husband and I moved to Poland at age 47 with 8 or our 10 kids. How well I remember those same haunting questions, How will my kids adjust? Will they ever have friends? Will they be educated? Will they ever fit in anywhere? Will they grow up to love God and the gospel and the Great Commission or feel resentment that we ruined their lives by uprooting them from life as they had always known it? (Several were in high school when we went.)
I am here to say, they are all so thankful we went. All 10 of them are walking with God today (though not without some huge detours along the way!) We lived in Poland for 10 years, returning 2.5 years ago because of the needs of one of our kids that could not be met there. God blessed us phenomenally during those 10 years, and other’s through us, but He made it very clear when it was time to leave. And the great part is, we have watched the gospel mushroom there since we left!
O how we learned the truth of Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed [i]by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; 10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. We understand so much more deeply that we are strangers and foreigners in this world and our true home is in heaven.
Our kids learned the language and the culture. They had incredible experiences, visiting places and seeing things most Americans can’t even imagine. They made friends. They got the culture. They were Polish-Americans deep inside. Jack and I learned what things were biblical parenting issues and which were simply traditional or simply American or even simply “Church parenting.” God will show you. He will lead you. He will help you. Krok po kroku. Step by step.
I wondered about reverse culture shock, which in many ways is much worse because everyone on this side thinks you are “coming home.” Our kids (and I) struggled with it. Some things still make me very homesick for Poland. I read something my daughter wrote recently to her brother about not writing to friends in Poland too much because she enters into that world again and it’s too hard. And yet, when that same daughter went back last summer with her dad she said the time was wonderful and she loved every minute and yet, she finally felt closure. We will always love Poland. And we will always be torn between two homes and never fully belong in either one. That’s one of the greatest blessings of living cross culturally, you learn your real home is in heaven.
Don’t grow weary of well doing. In due time you will reap! Gal 6:9
I’m cheering you on from afar and will pray as the Lord brings you to mind. Thank you for being obedient and taking this huge step to serve Him in Ukraine. Your kids are seeing reality in your faith. It is so evident that they are “getting it.”
Press on, sister. Jesus is waiting at the finish line with open arms!
Believe it or not, your concerns about parenting aren’t abnormal. A while ago, Cheryl said, “Sometimes I think I’m really screwing up.” I said, “Of course you are.” That’s what we do; we work hard, love much, and mess up anyway. It’s all part and parcel for parents. But, you’re right, you’re situation is unique and it sounds like your messy house, laundry nightmares and inadequate help is working for you. All kids must learn to overcome, but, unfortunately, when we live in America, we don’t see that. Therefore, our kids can go on their merry way and not realize they have obstacles from childhood until they’re (let’s say) 60. Your kids are facing challenges everyday and it sounds like they have the right parents for the job. Blessings to the whole Johnson clan
great stuff, Kim
Kim you are beautiful in every way and God loves you and so do I. Cute photo of the kids.
OOOXXX Grandma Pat
So much of this has hit home for me today… Although our situations are completely different, our family situation is also very unique and as a single, adoptive mother of an ‘older’ child with special needs, I too often feel like a lone ranger. I was raised by a stay-at-home mom and always thought I would someday raise my kids the same way. Yet that is not journey God has called me to walk. I work long hours and don’t have nearly as much time with my son as I would like. It’s hard not to feel guilty when I compare myself to other at home moms who have time for crafts, etc. when we barely have time to get dinner on the table. Yet you’re right, my son is not languishing in an orphanage on the other side of the world, he is loved not only by me but by the village of people who support us. God knew what He was doing when He orchestrated all of this and saying YES to Him is always worth it. Thanks for the reminder 🙂
This is precious ! Your kids are so blessed to be on the situation they’re in . It makes them uniquely qualified to be like Jesus. Enjoy the journey!