The P Word

Muddling my way through parenting

Lessons from America

A few weeks ago we returned from a family-defining holiday in California. Prompted by a good friend’s wedding, we took full advantage and spent 10 days travelling around this beautiful, incredible state which is full of extremes. The only sadness is that finances won’t allow us to repeat such a trip on a regular basis.

However, I need to start with an apology. My attitude towards Americans has not always been entirely positive. I have despaired at their seemingly incessant, overly-exuberant enthusiasm.

But I will not let my pre-judgemental attitude (based mainly on American TV, to be fair) take control again.

Stars and stripesHere are a few examples of how my preconceptions about Americans were challenged and my eyes were opened to the positive reality of that great nation:

You’re too damn happy …

Wrong. I wish I was more like that. When celebrating another passing year at Disneyland, several complete strangers wished me a happy birthday. It was undeniably genuine on every occasion. I thanked every one of them.

You annihilate the English language …

Wrong(ish). I even managed to find the use of ‘center’ and ‘theater’ quite endearing. After all, you can’t argue with the logic.

You’re all show and no substance …

Wrong. The welcoming, warm attitude we encountered was totally genuine and a refreshing change to the stiflingly reserved cynicism which has become a key characteristic of the UK. The apologetically fake British laugh which covers a whole range of insecurities was replaced by a hearty expression of joy. America knows how to laugh properly.

You can’t design a proper road junction (sorry, ‘intersection’) …

Wrong. Despite your obsession with the car, the road system creates an atmosphere of giving way to others. Cars actually stop for pedestrians. Drivers (mostly) look out for other people and think its ok to take a bit of time to travel somewhere, instead of just getting from A to B in the shortest possible time.

Before you think you’re reading the wrong blog, let me address what America & those wonderful people we call Americans taught/reminded me about parenting:

  • To throw off my reservations and inhibitions.
  • To embrace the privilege of parenting to the full.
  • To be a positive role model, who takes a positive attitude in all situations.
  • To encourage my kids and celebrate their achievements (of all kinds) at every opportunity.
So, hopefully without sounding too much like an ambassador for the Californian Tourist Board, I heartily recommend America and its gloriously positive people. You might even learn a lot too.
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