Saturday, May 06, 2006


I have been thinking about blogging for quite a while, a year at least. So why did I start this week? One reason was a sudden insight that I got about myself on Tuesday. I was driving home from administering the final exam in my contemporary world issues class, I was listening to public radio, the song was something about America, elegic, and it made me think about about my desire to take my children back to the Middle East, back to the rural desert settlements in the Jazeera. And then I was suddenly conscious that so much of how I raise my children, particularly Alexander, Iskandar, who was conceived just weeks after I returned from completely my dissertation fieldwork, is subtly affected by the need to prepare them for that trip.

We do not own any hand-held electronic games for example. I am suddenly conscious that I have excluded them not only because of a general desire to possess less but to meet a specific need. I can't take a gameboy focused kid to the desert. We eat potato chips and corn chips; but I avoid like the plague trendy processesd food. No blue applesauce, no pop tarts, no cool ranch doritos. There are all kinds of health reasons for this but in the car on Tuesday I was flooded with the sudden realization that my underlying motivation for so many of these parenting decisions is to have children who I can take to the Middle East, to Africa, to the developing world. Children who will not be obnoxious Americans anxious for familiar food (I once saw a whole planeful of band kids from a small texas town swarm the snack bar in the international lounge in Dallas for "real Cokes" sweetened with corn syrup. They felt terribly deprived to have drank only Coke with beet sugar during their two weeks in Germany. )

It has been years since I have been in the Middle East. We have intended to take the whole family each year since 2004 but each year the political situation seems to get worse and worse. Its now clear that it won't get better perhaps for a generation. I am not sure when I will get to show my children the places that have meant so much to me. When they will be able to meet the people whose voices I still hear in my head. It is in response to those voices that I turn my kids away from Disneyworld, from gameboys, from DVD players in the car. Somehow, this week I realized that in ways that I hadn't consciously understood before. And I thought to myself, I need to blog about this.

And here we are.


Kim said...

You really need to check out the children's books by Jane Kurtz.

Jane grew up in Ethiopia (and now lives in Kansas, lucky me!) and tells a great story about when they came back to the U.S. as children. They went into a sit down restaurant and her mom reminded all the kids to use their silverware. After a while, she looks down and sees Jane trying to eat chips with a fork. She whispers to the other kids to tell Jane she can eat her chips with her fingers. Jane yells, "Which ones are the chips?"

She's the author I took that picture book writing course from. She talked a lot about how living in Africa influenced the way she sees things.

Umm 'Skandar said...

Kim, I'll do that! Thanks. I'll also pass it along to my friend Mary who has two daughter adopted from Ethiopia and who also spends time thinking about such things.