Thank You, Russia

Our 13 months in Yekaterinburg haven't always been easy, but there are a few things we'll take away from our time here that I'm grateful for, particularly when it comes to Jack. Here, in no particular order, are some of the ways Russia has improved my child:

1) Jack takes his shoes off every single time he enters the house. It doesn't matter whose house. It doesn't even matter if it's a hotel. The nanny has gotten this shoes-off thing so deeply ingrained into Jack that it's simply a habit now. And since we've always been a no-shoes house anyway, I find this particularly awesome. 

2) Jack's palate has expanded greatly since we came to Russia. He now eats things like buckwheat porridge (which, even though I despise it, is very healthy), zucchini pancakes, salmon soup, and drinks herbal tea. I have my nanny to thank for much of this as well. She is a great cook, and she is very anti-packaged foods, and more than anything, she's incredibly persistent. Plus I can't really get things like Annie's mac n' cheese here, so it has forced us to cook a lot from scratch. That has been good for Jack, even though I really miss frozen veggie burgers some nights.

3) Jack will wear pretty much anything you put on him. Our first winter here, there were many screaming fights between Jack and the nanny over things like hats, mittens, two pairs of socks, snow pants, face masks, etc. Now Jack voluntarily wears tights, wool socks, two pairs of pants, and a balaclava. And he'll actually leave a hat on his head when he's outside. Not probably that handy for Peru, but it's made getting out of the house in the winter much easier for all parties involved. And as John said, all this cold weather has made him a "tough nugget who never complains about environmental factors." True dat.  

Jack last winter.

4) Jack has gotten awesome at entertaining himself. Yes, not having any other American kids at post sucks. I feel terrible guilt as a parent that my kid is lucky if he gets to play with other children (generally not his age or English-speaking) once a week. He is probably lacking in social skills and behind in normal preschool-aged activities from not going to school for a year. But man does that kid know how to play by himself. When we go to restaurants with play areas (another common Russian thing I seriously appreciate), Jack will contentedly play alone for an hour while we eat our meal. As someone who never had to play alone as a kid, I think this is a valuable skill, and I have a special appreciation for independence. Jack has it in spades now.

5) Jack has learned another language. Granted, he rarely speaks it, but he understands everything. I never had hopes that Jack would learn Russian as a three and four-year-old and retain it. Frankly, it's not that useful of a language in the grand scheme of things. But he has learned what it's like to learn another language. He understands that not everyone speaks the same language. He is willing to try out intimidating Russian words that even I can't pronounce. And he's developing an ear for sounds we don't have in English, which will come in handy at future posts (I think Spanish will be a piece of cake for him after this). As a monoglot who constantly feels like a moron in the Foreign Service, I'm hopeful Jack will at least be bilingual as an adult.

I'm sure there are more examples, probably many of which I won't recognize or appreciate until after we've left here. But for now, thank you, Russia, for making my kid into a tough little nugget. One who looks pretty darn cute drinking a cup of tea.


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