Jul/Aug 2021  •   Travel

Get Your Kids to Leave the Country in Under 50 Easy Steps

by Susan Hatters Friedman

Photo by Solen Feyissa on unsplash

Photo by Solen Feyissa on unsplash


Start with your own childhood. Grow up in one of the most diverse areas of Pittsburgh (according to Wikipedia anyway). Make sure your best friend in first grade just moved there from Japan.


When you are seven and stay home from school sick, be confused when your mom asks why you are watching a TV special about desegregation in the 1970s. You thought it was about slavery in the 1800s.


Go to Europe on a bus tour with your grandma, her treat because she wanted to show you and your sister Europe, so you see the world and its cultures, because you never know what the future holds. See also: How does going on a bus full of American retirees help you see cultures? But get a lot of t-shirts anyway.


Next, listen to your grandma's stories about her sabbatical to Japan. See also: Strong and loving female role models.


Grow up. Then, meet your own tall dark and handsome future doctor the week you both start medical school. Make sure it is just days after he returns from working in Kenya. Fall head over heels in love. Look at his photos from weeks ago when he had long hair in Africa before taming it for school.


Dream that he will take you places.


Take your son to Twin Falls, Idaho, for a summer medical school elective when he's three. Smile when they say they haven't had a child come before. Do it before the Internet is widely used so it is super hard to figure out what good preschools are in Twin Falls.


Be so proud of your dad who takes early retirement and goes to Central American countries and builds safe water wells with his mission. See also: Have they actually converted people or have they saved them from infections and death?


Speak French to your husband when your children are small, instead of spelling words like "b-e-d" like your parents did when you were young, as if it was fooling you. Later learn your husband is even worse at languages than you by finding out he took six years of French in contrast to your three years. See also: Your children will repay you later by speaking German to each other so you and their dad can't understand them.


Live in Cleveland Heights. Keep renting and pay no attention to the "housing ladder" your friends are climbing. See also: How to pick a suburb with many cultures represented.


Use your hard-earned money to pay for your children's language lessons. No matter how many lessons or languages.


Buy your son a Harry Potter book en francais on your work trip to Montreal, because your son is studying a little French and loves Harry Potter. This has the bonus of making the bookstore owner quite perplexed when he therefore begins speaking to you in rapid-fire French and you have to ask him for English please, despite purchasing a French children's book.


Act surprised when the children come home from the first day of 1st grade and 7th grade having both immediately befriended the new Israeli kid in their respective classes. It makes more sense when you find out that their new friends are siblings, too. Meet the parents (who are on sabbatical) and become close family friends.


Take your son to the Shotokan karate carpool so that he can keep studying with his amazing teacher, despite the commute to class being long.


Save your spare money for travel and experiences rather than buying crap, but French Harry Potter books are not crap. Explore the world and underneath. See also: How to SCUBA dive section.


Finally finish medical training and spend a chunk of your sudden salary sending your son to be a "cultural ambassador" on a 7th grade summer trip to Malta, Italy, and France. Put the ceramic artichoke he has bought on the mantle of your rented duplex.


Attempt to help your son review his German vocabulary words in high school even though you only know ich bin nicht Fritz and JFK's sentence about being a jelly donut.


Be afraid you are so liberal that when your children rebel, they will act like Alex P. Keaton. Brainstorm things for them to rebel against.


Do your research and figure out how to move to a new country. Go to New Zealand where you are on the "essential skills shortage" list.


Move overseas. Even when they beg—as you are spending the final week packing up for the long-planned family move to New Zealand—that it could just be a vacation.


Climb volcanoes. Go SCUBA diving and white water rafting. Make friends with people from other cultures. Live life in another way. Learn enough Maori words to not sound too American.


Come back. Show them you can always come back.


Encourage your ten-year-old to put sparkles on the envelope to help her application be the randomly drawn application for a free week of German immersion camp.


When she gets back, try not to be freaked out that she now sleep-talks Auf Deutsch. At least when you hear talking at night, you no longer need to go running to her room thinking there is an intruder trying to kidnap her.


Race down the highway on Saturday mornings to take your daughter to German school. Go to German food festivals. Feel like you like VWs for a cultural reason.


Encourage your daughter to go on the French club field trip to Montreal. See also blog entry: How can you prevent someone getting their first ever period on a trip outside the country without their mom?


Visit a relative in England. Reflect on your hunch that he left America after college because of how gay men in America were/are treated.


Visit all the castles in Wales on a castle-pass. Visit your cousins in Wales who have always sent lovely Welsh birthday and holiday gifts to your children. Your cousin in Wales was your penpal when you were children, and her mother is your middle-namesake.


Join the adjunct faculty of a Caribbean medical school and go teach and take your son on a SCUBA trip.


Move country, back and forth, again.


Only let your daughter drop out of high school French after her friend tells you while you two are sitting at her dance recital that Miss picks on your daughter for finishing her exams quickly and says she must have cheated when she got 100%. See also: Your husband is right when he says, "She'll come back to French if you just leave it alone, Susan... she's really talented," just like he said your son would come back to clarinet, because he's really talented.


Be amazed when your son becomes a student teacher for a Japanese language course at university despite majoring in biology. Peek through his books of kanji and wonder if your husband's bonding with the kids over Studio Ghibli films when they were little had anything to do with it. Or your son's many years of Monday night Shotokan karate. See also: Multiple strong male role models.


Be so happy when your son calls from Japan when he's on his semester abroad, exploring the far reaches of the country. Love that the "proof of life" photo he sends you is him riding a camel on the Tottori sand dunes.


Encourage your children to cultivate friendships with foreign exchange students. You never know when it would be fun to see them in their own countries, and visit the 6th Arrondissement, or a seaside castle in Italy.


Take Italian lessons together with your teenage daughter per divertimento. Try not to cry when she thinks you are purposely trying to make fun of the language in your pronunciations. See also: The scene in Friends where Phoebe tries to teach Joey French.


Take your daughter to the Wellington embassy to meet with the ambassador about career options because she thinks her school guidance counselor doesn't know about careers overseas. First figure out the ambassador's email address by trying all possible combinations of their name, gov, and state.


Be so proud of your son applying for the Japan Exchange and Teaching program right after university, even though he's gotten the bad advice from others that he just needs to hurry off to grad school or med school. Eagerly pay for his Brooks Brothers suit for the JET interview. See also: Knowing exactly what town you want to place in, because of your semester abroad.


Take the European summer conference trips during the New Zealand winter with family whenever possible. Take the overnight train from Venice to Vienna, which it turns out is not romantic like you imagined from Before Sunrise, but rather boiling hot from being in the summer sun all day long, and you won't sleep at all, and the floor is sticky.


Visit your friends who move from New Zealand to Australia.


Be ultra-polite when asking questions at a French museum in the Arrondissement because the ticket takers are grown-ups and you learned in French class that you refer to grown-ups as vous. Have them charge you a student price since you must be a student even though you're actually the grown-up. Have your daughter tell you she is proud of you that you made the ticket taker understand you after only three years of French, seeing as she has seen you try to speak Italian before.


Encourage dreams like you were never allowed to have. See also: When you were 16 and discovered there was actually a University of Hawai'i and then you were told not to be silly. Point out the philosophy, political science, and economics (PPE) programme at Ca'Foscari in Venezia to your daughter, when she is considering universities around the world.


Try to remain calm when your daughter tells you she has been yelled at in Italian while walking home from dinner with friends for appearing to have Jewish features. And when she tells you she hears racist and homophobic sentiments from liberal sources. Understand it is her life and she feels more comfortable in school in the UK.


Get yourself invited to be a visiting professor in Kyoto and visit your son. Go walking to temples and museums that he leads you through. Figure out the vegetarian food in Japan is pretty much only whenever you see uncooked fruits or vegetables at the grocery store, or eat at Indian restaurants. Feel paralyzed whenever he is out of your sight because no one seems to speak English anywhere you go. Or French or Italian. Be so proud of his landing.


Try to remain calm again when your daughter calls you from the London ER where she is with her friend who got attacked in the Tesco when he tried to stop the masked armed robbers on Halloween. Be glad she did not also try to stop the masked armed robbers, and be glad that she got her friend to the ER.


Work on a Masters degree at Cambridge yourself and visit your daughter in London.


Hope you've been a good enough mom.


Be so very proud of your grown-up children who are citizens of the world.


Miss them more than you ever imagined possible. Be so lucky Skype and FaceTime and Whatsapp and Viber and Zoom exist, and that your kids want to call you.