Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Special Jitters as the Kids Go Back to School

Most of what I know about kids these days comes from imagining what it would be like to be a kid these days.


Which is to say that I know nothing.


I will give you an example to prove my point: I don't know what Super Mario Brothers is.


I did, however, spend a few minutes over the weekend talking to a boy and a girl about the start of the school-year, which comes this week to most of Moscow's foreign schools.


These two kids, aged nine and 14, magnanimously agreed to talk with a kid-culture ignoramus such as myself, and left behind one very clear impression: they suffered from severe cases of pre-school-days anxiety.


Yeah, they like school all right, they said, but they just wished they could go to a normal school, not one with all these "weird kids".


Weird kids?


I naturally thought immediately of Ronnie Granger, who was about the weirdest kid we had in our school in upstate New York. He was remarkable because, for money, he would eat anything you concocted in the chemistry lab of your daily lunch tray. For example, a spaghetti float: spaghetti mixed with bread, apple crisp, peas and carrots all stirred into your 8-ounce milk carton. I once offered Granger a rare penny from my (okay, my dad's) coin collection to eat a grasshopper. It cost me a dollar to buy back the coin.


As I considered the case of nerves from which these two young Moscow residents were suffering, I realized Ronnie Granger had nothing on these kids, whose classmates come, not from the next county, but other countries, speak foreign languages, dress differently and, most importantly, often have different ideas about fun, friends and proper behavior.


How can you work to fit in when there are no standards for fitting in?


No wonder these kids were nervous.


Would the other kids be aggressively competitive in the playground, or are they free of this win-at-all-costs-thing? Do they play soccer, American football or cricket?


What should my two young friends wear on the first day of school? Should the boy fasten the top button of his shirt or not? For the 14-year-old girl, the dress-code is far more complex and I wouldn't dream of presuming to fathom its subtleties.


But I will say this: at that age a seemingly simple social faux pas can be magnified to the adult scale of coming to a business party in your underpants. What pressure!


And these foreign kids here have to endure this across cultural barriers, whether they go to the Italian School, the Lycee Francais, the Anglo-American School, the Swedish School, the Deutsche Schule, the Japanese School or a Russian dyetsky sad.


Much has been made of the facility of young people to pick up new languages and adapt to new cultures. and it is with good reason that they have these talents as they must face practically a new classroom each year -- even the teachers are different.


Thinking of all this made me glad to be an adult. In the battle, not just to adjust to, but to absorb, a culture that is not our own, my two young friends are on the front lines.