I am keenly aware of my quirks as an American. I can be giddy and boisterous. I am erratic and move too quickly. My table manners can be clumsy. My American accent is thick and my language skills, though I try, a jumble of words. Luckily, I’m cute. That rescues me on occasion.
Traveling with my 12-year-old daughter in Moscow has shown me the depth of my daughter’s Americanisms.
Some of these things are simply “kid-isms,” I suppose.
1. She has no concept of how loud she is. Ever.
2. Even when she tries, she still stabs her food, can’t properly use a knife and often talks with her mouth full.
3. She talks to strangers even when she doesn’t speak the language. Last night she tried to tell the Russian hostess in a Turkish restaurant in English that her dress was pretty. Poor woman thought we had a problem with the restaurant’s service. We eventually relayed the compliment.
4. My daughter has never dealt with real food. Now my daughter is a duck-in-orange-sauce, fancy meal girl. Not chicken nuggets and French fries. So imagine my surprise when she didn’t have the patience to pull the meat off a real fish or slice around the fat on a healthy portion of duck. Think about that: my daughter, raised as a foodie, has never dealt with real food. Bonus- she now adores fresh juice and real croissant.
5. She does not have the patience to remain at the table for a leisurely meal. She fidgets. She asks for hugs. She tried to put her head down.
6. She points and screams “LOOK.”
7. In fear of making a mistake, she began this trip reluctant to engage with speakers of other languages and wouldn’t repeat phrases in foreign tongues.
8. She has classic American overconfidence. In our third and final airport of the trip, in Kazan, she tells me adamantly that she can meet us at the gate because she can read her boarding pass. Never mind that we are in a foreign country where she can neither read nor speak the language. Never mind that she is so adept at reading her ticket that she can’t figure out her row and seat on the plane.
9. Space. She’s not too bad with people in her space or how much space she occupies, but man oh man is she a disaster when it comes to realizing where her backpack is in relation to others and where her suitcase rolls behind her. And how to navigate on planes and trains without being a major disruption.
10. Math. She wanted slippers. First she read the wrong tag. Thought it was 800 rubles. It was 2500. I reminded her that the ATM was out of service (really, that isn’t mom code for “I am not your personal back”) and that I had 1100 rubles. So I told her to do the math. I know she has American money with her. And we keep explaining the exchange rate. And pointing out the sign outside the bank that lists the rate for the euro and the U.S. dollar.
I tell her if she wants to calculate the price in dollars she could give me dollars and I would get her rubles. She couldn’t determine the algebraic equation to calculate the cost. I told her to use 70 rubles for ease.
She wanted to divide 70 by 100. I told her that would allow her to figure out the pennies versus rubles rate. She wanted to then multiple that by 2500. I pointed out she was making this too complicated and suggested dividing 250 by 7.
She didn’t get it. The logic. She could do the math, but not the thinking.
11. Ten minutes into dinner last night, she tried to sneak a game of Minecraft on her iPod under the table. That resulted in confiscation of the iPod (with us as camera and potential language assistant) and a stern, “I did not fly you 6,000 miles from home to sit on a Russian street and play Minecraft.”
“It was two seconds,” the child says.
“Because I caught you,” I retort. “The iPod is for pictures and in the hotel.”