Emma wants to go to Europe this Summer as an exchange student. France, Italy, or Switzerland. She’s working on her application and we’re pretty excited for her. It’s not something I had the courage to do at 16. Or even now. She’d go for 4 weeks and then she’d return home with a new European friend who would stay with us for 4 weeks. As hosts, we’d be expected to provide opportunities for our visiting student to experience the best of American culture. That seems like a lot of pressure. When I’m not at work I’m mostly at home in my underwear yelling about politics. Sometimes I’ll yell at the TV while watching football. Our home is a chaotic place during the week with after-school pick-ups and drop-offs, piano practice, dinner prep, clean-up and homework. (I don’t think homework should be a thing.) And someone has to walk Rosie, our dog. That doesn’t seem like what the Exchange Program folks have in mind.
Or maybe it is. I think what our foreign visitor would take away is that families are families no matter where you go. It’s messy and hurly burly but scratch below the surface and you’ll find some universal truths. Parents love their kids, and (teenage) kids tolerate their parents in every culture. No matter where you go it’s about family and friends. This understanding can make a big world feel a little smaller and more safe, I think. Particularly after an American week like this when the very darkest aspects of our culture frighten and confound us and the world.