My kids are growing up on an island, and for that I am thankful.
I am thankful that my kids are growing up knowing there are many languages in the world, not just the language they hear at home from their Dad and I. At 3 1/2 and 1 years of age, they have friends who speak Spanish, English, Creole, and French, and have met others who speak so many more. My three year old attends a bilingual school where lessons are taught in Spanish and English. My one year old will dish out sweet kisses at the request of “un beso por favor!” My three year old creates stories with her dolls where one might be from in Scotland, another from the Dominican Republic and another from Canada. With my daughter ‘guiding them’ the dolls then communicate with each other in a mixture of English and Spanish, dependent on that particular dolls ‘language knowledge’.
I am thankful that my kids are growing up with friends of all different races (or skin colours as my 3 year old would say). As they run and play, they reach out for a hand and whatever little hand lands in theirs is the one they hold and squeeze and run with. She told me yesterday, “None of my friends have the same colour of skin. Some are almost the same, but not quite. Everyone’s colour is a little bit different.” I asked her if she thought all of the different colours of skin were beautiful. She said, “Yes, they are all so beautiful, like a rainbow.”
I am thankful that my kids play outside 365 days a year. The sun isn’t always shining but there is never reason enough to hide inside. They run on the grass, bike on the pavement, splash in the puddles, dance in the rain, climb on the trees, dive in the waves, dig in the sand. They breath in the deliciously fresh air. Even when they are inside, the doors are wide open with the breeze a welcome visitor whenever it makes its way in. The windows without glass couldn’t be closed if we tried. In the yard we collect fallen mangos and avocados and think up what creations we can make with them. We collect fresh eggs from the chickens to be eating them just 10 minutes later. I am sitting in my garden at this very moment, writing these very words as I watch my two girls chase each other in the grass beside me.
I am thankful that my kids are growing up around families of all shapes and sizes. Some live in tiny wooden houses with their aunts, uncles, parents, cousins and siblings all in one room. Some live in concrete homes with their mother, father, sisters or brothers. Some live with just their mum, others with just their dad, many with their grandparents, some with a family friend. Some have no siblings, some have many. There are families with parents born here who have never left, some with parents born far away who have just arrived. Some have parents who live in other countries, and others have parents who come and go. Some big brothers are taking care of their little brothers. Some big sisters are taking care of their mums. Some grandparents are taking care of everyone.
I am thankful that my kids are growing up without playdates. Our neighbours aged 2, 3 and 6 wander over to see if anyone is outside or if there is a ball around to kick or throw. We pop over to a friend’s house to see if they are in. They pull us through the doors and into the back yard for white wine between mothers and freshly baked cookies between friends while the kids run around collecting flower bouquets from the bushes. We pick up a friend whose mum has been sick to take her out for icecream and her parents ask only that we drop her off before bedtime. We run into friends upon friends at the local restaurant on a Wednesday night because who can resist 2 for 1 pizza, and our girls have to be asked five times to quiet down and stop running, but really, how can they resist? We walk the waterfront at dusk, waving and saying hello every few steps we take. There is always someone ready to play, or talk, or listen. Not scheduled, not planned. Just there.
Island life isn’t perfect. Some nights you have to cook dinner by candlelight because the power is off… again! Some showers are taken with a bucket and a scoop, with water so cold it makes you squeal. Some nights it is so hot you toss and turn for hours until you finally drift off in a puddle of sweat. Sometimes it is really bad. Sometimes there is no electricity for days. Sometimes there is no water for days. Sometimes someone you know gets really hurt in a motorcycle accident. Sometimes they don’t make it to hospital in time because there is no ambulance. There is no 911. Sometimes it is so hard you don’t know if you can do it anymore and so you stop and think about the good parts. You remember why you are here. You remember why your kids are here. You remember why you are thankful.
And you write down…