Sometimes it’s the simplest of interactions that make the most impact
SAYING SEE YOU LATER ALLIGATOR IN DANISH
Walking away from our middle son’s most recent football match, we were passed by some of his teammates heading home from the game by bicycle. Because it’s Denmark. It’s how you do. As they rode past, each called out, “Ses Q!” See you. A small head nod or raise of the hand with his reply, “Ses.”
See you. It’s such a simple phrase. Ses. Spoken between boys. But the sentiment behind it? So very powerful. Especially for an expatriate. Or an immigrant. Or a migrant. Whatever you want to call me. It’s powerful. For me. For him. For us. Choosing a life lived across borders. Calling Denmark home.
The boys don’t tell each other goodbye. They say “ses.” See you later. Again. There is an expectation and understanding in that one word. It is an acceptance. We will see you again. We want to see you again. But if you asked them, they probably wouldn’t see it as sentimentally as me. They are after all. Teens.
But this is big. For an American kid living a world away. For the same kid who loved playing soccer with friends in the States. (Yes, soccer is called football here in Europe. Fodbold in Danish.) But this kid, my kid, didn’t feel the same comraderie and welcome jumping on a field in Denmark at the vulnerable age of 11. Let’s face it, we were all a bit vulnerable moving to Denmark. The comfort and community of established social circles and sports teams and school groups unceremoniously dissipated. The minute we stepped on that plane.
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This is big. For his parents. Who worry about choices. Are we helping or hurting our kids continuing to choose this life abroad? I know there are some families that can move to a new country and immediately find ways to engage their children in the local equivalents of whatever their interests were wherever they were previously local. These were not my kids. I know there are some families who easily slot into an international school with every activity under the sun available in house. At the school. Sports teams. At the school. Drama clubs. At the school. This was not our school.
So we tried. To sign our kids up for local sports clubs. Hoping for some forgiveness at their lack of language proficiency. Or hoping some of said language would rub off on our kids. To be fair, the coaches were happy to make sure they understood. But the onus was on my children to speak up when they didn’t. The coach has many other kids to contend with and doesn’t read minds – nor do I. I place no blame on any of the coaches. But as an outsider already, most of the time my kids, they clammed up. Followed along and/or didn’t speak out. Fearful to be found out. That they were different.
I would have done the same at their age. If I’m honest, I may have acted similarly here in some spaces and experiences myself. Looking like the locals isn’t always an advantage. There are different expectations on “hidden expats.” That you know the rules of the road. That you already have the manual on how to exist in the culture you are desperately trying to embrace and assimilate into. But they don’t just hand those out with your residency permits. We had to learn. Through experience. It hasn’t always been easy.
But then. Suddenly. It happens. And kids are telling your kid, see you. Ses. It’s hard to explain. But sometimes, it is something so simple as seeing your child valued and wanted and expected that is encouraging. And validating. That we have learned. And experienced. And engaged. And are ok. He is ok. We are ok. This choice is ok. For now. We are happy. Thanks for reading. Vi ses. Until next time. Cheers from here. Erin