A Great Big World

A few weeks ago Jack was playing at the park and asked another little girl's grandmother, "Are you American?"

The woman told him she was and then smiled at me. "Isn't it great we live in a country where kids can ask a question like that?"

I explained that we'd been living in Russia last year, and that Jack is still trying to figure out this whole geography thing. He then proceeded to rattle off our address and the fact that we live in a white house. "But it's just a rental," he added. Oh, Jack.

Sometimes I feel bad for our little guy. Most kids don't know much beyond their own city or state. Jack is constantly talking about where we are in the world - "Is this Arlington?" "Oh look, there's the Washington Monument! Are we going to D.C.?" "Is Montana a United State?" "Can we go see the skyscrapers in New York?" "Is Daddy in Russia?" "Is Peru in South America?" Etc. Granted, I don't remember much from when I was four, but I'm pretty sure I didn't know anything about South America. Jack's world is just so BIG. How can someone who can't tie his own shoelaces be expected to grasp it all?

Today we visited some friends living at the Oakwood in Falls Church, where many FS families stay in between assignments. Jack was "swimming" with his new friend Stephanie (after Jack splashed around in his water wings for a while, Stephanie whispered to me, "He thinks he can swim, but he can't." Apparently the only thing Jack got out of two weeks of swim camp was a false sense of security.) and came over to me afterward. "I was having a conversation with the lifeguard," he explained.

"She's Ukrainian," I told him. "Ukraine is right next to Russia."

Jack cocked his head. "Oh. So she's not from Turkey the country?"

Another mom smiled knowingly at me. Earlier I'd been sitting with a group of "trailing spouses," all with kids, all headed for various corners of the globe: Mauritania, Honduras, Korea, Vietnam... Two women, both headed to Tegucigalpa next week, were meeting for the first time. I spoke with a lovely mother of two who's heading to Lima next month. Everyone knew someone who'd been to someone else's post, a friend they could put somebody in touch with, or another spouse who could help answer a question. Our kids ran around together, unconcerned about who'd been where or where they were headed next. It felt nice to be a part of the community for a while, to remember that my kid isn't the only one who's a little lost every now and then (and neither, for that matter, am I).

Sometimes, the world feels really huge and intimidating. And other times I'm reminded, it's a small world after all.


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