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Hypocritical and Hyper-Critical ~ Not the Best Combo

by Laura on December 16th, 2013

 

<< Face-palm. >>

I haven’t been posting in this “Monday-expat-mommy-writes-about-shenanigans” space.

It’s not that stuff hasn’t been happening; rather, it hasn’t been all that funny.

Just when I thought I had this “living-abroad, dealing with cultural differences and raising kids” gig under control, the rug was firmly whisked out from under me.

It’s hard to be funny when you feel like a sucker-punched hypocrite.

I’ve written about my daughter’s resilience in succeeding in a new-and-strange-to-her environment, coming from sunny Southern California to definitively-four-seasons Serbia. The transition was difficult. [Understatement.]

I’ve joked about returning to the U.S., where my kids’ ability to stand up for themselves to not take crap from anyone will likely land them in the principal’s office. [Not an understatement.]

I’ve written about how women are treated in Serbia. [Quite well, it turns out.]

And then, WHAM. I realize what hypocrite I am.

Just when I thought I knew how stuff works, turns out … I’m swimming in uncharted waters, treading water like an idiot … while those around me are frolicking in fabulous swimsuits and sparkly flippers.

So what the heck happened?

I had the utmost pleasure of encountering a parent with a “certain background” (i.e. not city folk)*, and how females are viewed there. Something along the lines of, “They’d prefer if women didn’t vote.”

To which my husband replies, “And if we’re honest, don’t we all?”**

It’s even funnier-slash-effed-up when you realize that my husband has deep disdain for political systems of any type. It’s a Russell Brand buck-the-system, sort of mentality.

My daughter attends a Serbian public elementary school, she’s in the year before 1st grade. A classmate’s father felt that my daughter was mistreating his daughter. Instead of having his daughter work it out with my daughter and (here’s a great idea!) their teacher … well, he took matters into his own hands.

[Gory details deleted here, for the sake of highroading brevity.] Basically, the month-long frenzy led to threats of the press and the minister of education being called (by the other father). Apparently another stereotypical trait is exaggeration.

Man, I never thought that my daughter would be considered the bully in Serbia! Here, her tough-minded bossiness generally is considered an asset to shape and mold, not a character trait to be eradicated.

But you punished her, right?

Yes, we meted out strict consequences; yes, my daughter has been “molded.”

No, we didn’t take the father’s version of events as the incontrovertible truth.

Yes, we trusted her teacher when she assured us that our daughter is not a bully (first clue: she does not suffer from low-self esteem), and that this is something that should have been handled within the classroom (in her defense, the teacher was sick when most of this went down).

No, I could not believe it when the principal explained that we have to understand that the father is XYZ ethnicity. Could you imagine that in the U.S.?! … Well, we all have to understand that this is happening because we’re dealing with an [ethnic background] father. Lawsuit-city!

Yes, my daughter understands she’d be better off simply staying away from this little girl.

No, we weren’t told we were bad parents.

Yes, I thought I was one. There may have been tears.

But. I’m learning. 

 

3 Things I’ve Learned from Having a 5-Year Old Daughter in Foreign Kindergarten:

 

1. I have to treat my daughter like the child she is.

She craves positive reinforcement and, more importantly, authority, from me. I have to set the stage for a healthy adult relationship with my daughter, but that cannot replace firm boundaries coupled with nonjudgmental, effusive love.

 

2. People are funny. (i.e. sometimes stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason.)

They get themselves all worked up, when the answer is straightforward. It’s no secret that the “oppressed child” is encouraged to be meek and submissive at home … is it any surprise she can’t stand up for herself at school? 

Truth of the matter (from the girl’s father): if the two girls were rather two boys, the child would have been told to “man up” a long time ago.

 

3. I need to speak better Serbian. Tell me something I don’t know.

 

*Don’t have enough information to call out this particular ethnicity by name. Yet. I’m biding my time; we’re not even 1/2 way through the school year.

** He’s totally joking.

Image “Frustrated Woman Holding Her Head” by stockimages from freedigitalphotos.net.

 

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12 Comments
  1. I'm feeling guilty about how funny I find this story. (You always make me laugh – even at your most poignant stories.) I love how you wear your feelings on your sleeve. It's what makes you a great writer.

    • Laura Dennis permalink

      Corie,
      Thanks so much, you know just this morning, I was thinking of maybe deleting this post–wondering if perhaps it was too "heart-on-the-sleeve," but thanks to you, I'm gonna leave it be. Your support means so much to me! <3 Laura

  2. "We have to understand that the father is XYZ ethnicity…"

    Oh. My.

    I actually *do* have some understanding of this in the states. I encounter this in the church sometimes, usually from the people who are speaking of their own ethnicity or that of their spouse and making excuses.

    It's frustrating.

    • Laura Dennis permalink

      Wow, that's so interesting that you do hear those things … to explain a spouse's behavior or make excuses. It's funny, I feel like here, where PC is not "a thing," they are literally using this to explain a certain mentality. Like we have to keep this in mind, and not get too upset about this father's actions. Like his own mentality is too deeply ingrained to expect anything different. An excuse, yes, totally. But kind of like with the idea that there's no sense getting our panties in a bunch about something we can't really change. Perhaps I'm not explaining it properly …

  3. You should not change your style of writing , it makes for a very good read and i am sure an inspiration for some of the expat community out there ( it can be lonely life out there ) A lot of this type of "mentality " happens in some of the less developed countries – I know I come from Zimbabwe

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