I’ve always been proud of Ireland, and keen to pass along a sense of being Irish to my daughters, who were born and are being raised in the US. However, as my eldest has officially entered the “Obnoxious Teenager” phase (Oh, such a barrel of laughs!), she appears to have internalized a lesson I did not intend: that everything is better in Ireland.
While her peers are matching their dramatic eyerolls to declarations that their parents “Just don’t understand” them, mine is declaring that everything is more civilized, modern, or enlightened in Ireland. She’s even decided that teachers are kinder, testing less arduous, and homework less frequent. Not in my memory, I tell her.
I cringe, because I know things are no better in Ireland — if they were, we’d have moved back years ago! To tell you the truth, I dislike mindless pride in anything: football teams, ones own comedic ability, or national origin. I came of age in 1970’s Ireland, with car bombs, two television channels, and awful roads — need I go on? Things are different in modern Ireland, yes, but that doesn’t make them necessarily better or worse than anywhere else. Humans are humans, and fallibility is universal.
I suppose from her point of view, the Ireland she knows consists of long summer days, mostly idyllic weather, and no responsibilities. What’s not to love? That’s life on holiday, and how could it not compare badly to the everyday world: school, chores, responsibility, and the familiarity that breeds contempt?
Perhaps, rather than long summers at their grandparents (courtesy of my being a freelance writer who’s never really on vacation if there’s a nearby wifi signal) I should have arranged to have them do a year at school in Ireland — or even a few weeks learning Irish in summer school? A few weeks dealing with teachers, homework, irregular verbs, Irish weather, and routine would certainly show them that the grass isn’t necessarily greener. (OK, that cliche doesn’t hold up, as the grass is definitely greener in Ireland, but you know what I mean…)
We did vaguely consider relocating when the kids were younger, but our employment situations never allowed it to become any more than a day dream. While I’m theoretically free to work from Ireland at any time, my wife’s job is less versatile.
For years I worried that my kids would feel like strangers in Ireland, and have no interest in the place. Now, I’m reminded that a blind pride in a place can be just as bad as no pride. Be careful what you wish for, because you will surely get it!
Just another adventure in raising kids between two cultures.
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