Fourier Analysis is a mathematical tool which can do a number of things: separate out signals from noise; help identify patterns or trends in data; filter out all unwanted data and focus on a single signal; use approximations to make generalizations; make approximations of real world signals (think electronic music); combine harmonics to get a stronger signal. That's what I'll be trying to do here!! Won't you join me with your comments?
Thursday, July 12, 2007
"Where Do I Belong?"
I knew when I had children that this might be an issue. I knew in raising them to be "children of the world" that this would come up. I had hoped I would have an answer by now, but I don't. My oldest daughter (12 in October) has now hit the age where she needs to "belong". I am American. My husband, with an Italian last name, is 1/4 Italian, 3/4 German, but was raised in Germany and doesn't speak Italian. When his Dad was a young man in Nazi Germany, it was not good to be "different", so he stopped speaking Italian, cultivated a neutral German accent, and has never spoken Italian in front of his children. Our daughters were born in the Netherlands and their early school years at the creche (Dutch day-care/ nursery school) and first years at primary were all in Dutch. They have a number of Dutch friends and participate in sports and after-school activities that are all in Dutch.
We have adapted our lives to help them "fit in". Birthdays and holidays were celebrated in "Dutch style" with slight modifications (future blog on how I resolved the problem Sinter Klaas vs. Santa Claus). But they have also had exposure to German and American culture. We visit the German grandparents and cousin for a weekend about every 6-8 weeks. Last summer was the first time we had a vacation in the US longer than 2 weeks, and it really helped improve their English.
Three years ago, after being very disappointed with the education they were (not) receiving at their Dutch public school, I placed both girls in a semi-private "International School". I vetoed their going to the "American School" or the "British School" for a number of reasons, but primarily because neither would support the multi-culture that is their homelife. We had/have the option of the German school, but that is a lot further away so I felt the IS was the best option.
Both girls have thrived. They both have a mix of friends, and speak at least 2 of their languages every day. German is used less often, but they speak it fluently at home with their father. Though the school has the usual financial and organizational problems, there is a wonderful open environment where all cultures, beliefs and religions are accepted. It is a small school (20-25 kids per class) with a wide mix of nationalities. My DDs have joined in celebrations of Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish and Christian holidays. And they have picked up various words in 8 or so other languages. As a parent this sounds wonderful, and I am of course thrilled with the rich environment they have at their doorstep.
But puberty is now upon us. And while there is not really an issue of "fitting in", my oldest child is now trying to understand who she is. This first came up earlier in the year when each of the children was to do a project on his or her "home country". I was faced with the tearful tantrum accompanied by the wail "I don't have a home!" Boy did this pierce me to the heart! I identify with this feeling as it accompanies my darkest homesickness bouts. I have lived much longer as an adult in Europe than I lived in the US. And while we have a wonderful house that I got to help design and personalize, at times I still don't feel like it's my "home".
While we overcame the earlier crisis with a long discussion of how she had at least 3 "home" countries and she could pick whichever she wanted for her project, I knew the problem was not solved. And then this morning, almost out of the blue, she cuddled in my arms and said in a small voice, "Mom, where do I belong?"
Now I know that part of this is coming from the angst that is present in all pre-teens/teenagers. Those answers she will have to come up with on her own and will take some time. But the part that I have to help her with is the part that I too struggle with, and I am at a real loss. How can I help her forge her identity when my own is so fuzzy at times? How do convince her at how blessed she is with the advantages she has, how it is so wonderful to have perspective and understanding of so many countries? How do I help her forge a confidence and a feeling of "home"? How do I give her a feeling of being "rooted" when I feel myself that I am almost "rootless"? My worst bouts of homesickness came after being in Texas for 3 weeks by myself, surrounded by family and friends, and I could not explain why everything felt so "wrong". There definitely is something to the old saying that "You can't go home again".
So this evening I face a delicate diplomatic discussion that has repercussions that a UN ambassador can only remotely imagine. I know it won't be the last, but it is a very important beginning. I am helping to shape the future outlook of a child of the world. Your prayers, good wishes, advice and wisdom are more than welcome on this.