International Exchange

My girls from Botswana were so beautiful and so full of joy. The first of my 7 Rules of Living is Pile on the People.

Hosting two 17-year old girls from Southern Africa stay for a week brought us so much laughter. Hosting international students, in our case, amazing musicians, was meaningful on so many levels. We learned about their country, culture, school, and families. We learned about ourselves.

I fancy myself as someone who makes international friends easily. And when I was a kid, I dreamed of having a big, multi-racial, multi-ethnic family. It just feels so right to get to know and love people from other countries.

Growing up in suburban Chicago, we hosted Claudio, (I think he was from Brazil), for a couple of weeks. The Coudal kids (and mom) loved him like crazy. It’s amazing how quickly you can fall in love with people.

“Your kids are so great,” Lolo told me when we were all out to brunch yesterday. Yes, yes, I agree.

But she also said, as my kids were teasing me about my how bad my cooking is, “Girls, you are so mean to your mother. And your mother is so nice.” That made me feel good and bad. Good because, hey, she noticed how exceedingly nice I am, but bad, because my girls do put me down (as only teens and preteens can do). Do my kids tease me too much?

It’s a generational thing, I think — parents today, tolerate our children’s gentle jibing. We are not perfect and we know it and accept it. But throughout the day, I mulled this over. On the sidewalk, I bumped into my neighbor and confided my worry in him. He reported that his daughter puts her mother down too.

I have to think about this a little bit longer. I’ve already called a family meeting for tonite. On the agenda?

1. The kids were great international hosts. Let’s do it again!

2. Respect your mother.

3. Pile on the people!

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