Wills, Life Insurance & Who Gets the Kids When You Live On the Other Side of the World

 

by CNdR. All Rights Reserved.

by CNdR. All Rights Reserved.

I like to think of myself as a very organized person.  Well perhaps not organized exactly. More like I get the really critical things done. I can fish out important documents in an instant even if I can’t find my sunglasses for the umpteenth time. (And yes they were on my head)

When it came to having kids, I fit the urban upper middle class cliché. I researched nipple creams and organic mattresses, to vitamin K or not, what were the best BPA-free bottles for my freshly expressed milk. I am the one trudging through international airports with car seats in tow even though I don’t own a car or a driver’s license at that. You get the picture.

If you told me then that I would find myself living halfway around the world, with two children five and under, without a will, established guardians and life insurance, I would cry “sacre-bleu! How dare you accuse me of such neglect and irresponsibility!”

Yet here I am, without any of these papers in my waterproof emergency filing briefcase.

Apart from the fact that I can’t even believe it myself, the truth is that each time I try to tackle this, I am totally overwhelmed about how to handle the situation given the life we have chosen.

Starting with life insurance: I can’t figure out where I should take this out. Do I take it out here in South East Asia? Do I take out a policy in the US? What happens when we move again? And why didn’t I take it out before that bout of postpartum? Apparently taking anti-depressant are likely to drive up your premiums. Seriously, given that we pop these in the US like breath mints, I wonder how many folks would reconsider the severity of their condition. I definitely needed mine but had I taken out the policy earlier….sigh.

What about the kids? What happens if the grim reaper comes knocking earlier than expected?

I find I have to turn down my architect husband whenever he suggests I join him for a romantic escape to some exotic location he’s currently visiting on business. With my luck something would happen to the both of us and our precious mini-banshees would find themselves alone in Bangkok with no family for thousands of miles. And when that family showed up, they likely wouldn’t even recognize anyone.

Once upon a time, we had more sisters and brothers and aunts and uncles. Chances are, we lived closer and saw them more regularly. Now, under the guise of globalization and hyper efficiency, people must follow jobs where they can find them, often on the other side of the globe. Families are smaller, more scattered and lacking the close-knit ties that proximity often engenders.

My girls have never met their Mexican uncle and his family. They’ve seen their abuelita a few times on Skype but they can’t really communicate with her because their Spanish is limited to a few phrases. We left the states before our eldest could really create memories and since then, our girls have seen my elderly parents twice in the flesh. Once in 2011 and once in 2013. Hardly serious bonding time. They likely couldn’t recognize my brothers if they tried.  The only life they’ve known or remember is life in Asia.

Without a will, the law leaves it up to the families to work out. Try as I might, I can’t imagine making the girls pack-up and move far from everyone and everything they have ever known. Taking them away from a familiar environment, culture and friends following the loss of their parents seems cruel. And even if we did subject them to that, most of our immediate relatives are ruled out due to mental illness, age, and health. The few that are left either already have large broods, don’t speak the same language as the girls, and are complete strangers to the girls. My lip starts quivering at the thought of putting the girls through such a situation.

So what to do when you are an expat with limited resources and a family that just can’t or wont travel to see you? For me, I’ve felt that we’ve developed a family of sorts with the friends we’ve made abroad. My eldest knows and loves several of my friends more than any of our family members. And I can’t help but wish that, should something come to pass, the girls could at least transition with them.

But I also can’t find the courage to ask them. It’s such a huge responsibility– albeit a hypothetical one–  to put on people. And so another day passes, and our Will is left unwritten.

Are you living far from your family? How have you handled this? I’d love to hear from all of you.

Pinning My Linguistic Hopes on More Travel.

This post was written for June’s Raising Multilingual Children Carnival hosted this month by All Done Monkey. This month’s theme is Multilingualism and Travel. If you would like to participate, host or simply learn more about the carnival, please visit Piri -Piri Lexicon’s Carnival Page.

By i.g.granados & pinched from fab site www.londonmums.org.ukI haven’t been home in two years. Wait, that’s wrong. I haven’t been home in three years but I am not sure anymore what home really is. I haven’t seen my parents in two years. The last time we saw each other, they flew from New York, the city where I was born and raised, to meet us in France, where I grew up spending my summers. Two years ago, they met our second daughter for the first time. She was 10 months old.

Prior to the trip, I was brimming with anticipation as I was sure, once immersed in the language, that my daughter Pea would flick a switch and start speaking French fluently. I felt like I’d read about this a thousand times, children who understood a language simply needing some time in the country to make the linguistic leap to actually speaking.

I was so very disappointed when it didn’t happen. Truth is we weren’t there long enough. We were also surrounded by people who understood and could speak English and who were all too keen to do so despite my begging them not to. I was reminded once again that there are no quick fixes when it comes to multilingualism. I did console myself with the idea that she had been immersed in lots of lovely French culture and, in a bid to try and view the glass half full, wrote a post on the topic here.

One of the reasons we chose to move to the other side of the world was the idea that we could afford to send our kids to a French school. I knew from friends’ experiences that spots in French/English immersion programs at public schools in New York were nearly impossible to come by, and private schools in the US are utterly unaffordable for us mere mortals. At the time, my daughter was attending a local Singaporean school but, after that trip, I was more determined than ever to get both our girls into French or bilingual schools and our upcoming move from Singapore to Bangkok was going to make that a reality with a more affordable French Lycée and an amazing little French/English bilingual nursery called Acacia conveniently near our new digs.

The first year was pretty much everything that I’d hoped for despite some major bumps in the road that caused me no end of neuroses -oh how I need to learn to think long term and not panic at every short term setback. But I digress… English is still the dominant language in our house but the girls’ French is fluent and I know progress has been made when, despite being an ‘English day’ at school, Pea comes home and choses to speak to me in French. My wee one, little plum already happily switches back and forth. They both love their schools and it’s all been a great success.

So why am I pulling them out?

A year in and I’ve realized the choice is really between private schools or tickets home to see family so in the end, I am opting for the latter. I’ve often preached about sticking to your heritage languages but what exactly is the point of my kids speaking French and Spanish if they then can’t go see their Mexican and French extended family? And really, since el Jeffe works all the time and all our funds go to the French school, Spanish is barely hanging on in our household.

What I will lose in giving up their formal French education I hope to gain with the ability to take more trips to France and Mexico in order to deepen their cultural connection and truly live their languages. Right now the girls don’t really get why Spanish is important but I know once they spend a few months with Abuelita and meet their cousins, they will want to actively add this language to their linguistic arsenal, as will I.

And let’s face it, I really miss good tortillas and ceviche.

 

I Am Going to Sell My Eggs

Guest Post by Lynn, brilliant creator of The Diary of a Nomad Mom. She is wet-your-knickers funny and I am totally honored that she wanted to swap guest posts with me. You can also find brilliant ‘shorts’ like the one below on her Facebook page. Lynn and I decided to write about how we mothers try to make a buck without having to succumb to turning tricks…yet. You can check out mine on her blog here!

nomadmomdiary.com

Once upon a time I was flying up the career ladder. I worked 60 hours a week and made six figures. Shopping sprees galore, groceries from Whole Foods and dinner out whenever I wanted. Then my husband got offered a job in a foreign country. And we had a baby. And everything went to hell in a hand basket.

Four years ago we made our move with a 8 week old baby in tow. I lasted for two months as a stay at home mom before I started climbing the walls. I was sick of window-shopping with a baby carriage, I wanted the freedom to go back into the stores and use any dressing room I wanted. (Side note, how seriously freaking annoying are the hordes of teen girls who all pile into together into the one big dressing room? I know I am a lackadaisical parent at best, but even I hesitate to park the stroller in the common area of the dressing room. Move your skinny butts out of there already!)

My husband came home one evening to find me crying over the baby. It is amazing how quickly a nervous breakdown can make your husband find money in the budget for daycare. We signed up for one day a week and my adventures in money-hunting began.

What kind of start-up does a woman with zero creativity and no experience working for herself make? Apparently, a lot more than she ever envisioned. It took me six months to get the ball rolling, but I soon found myself overwhelmed with new business ideas. I buddied up with a creative friend and started a website. I wrote and wrote and wrote and earned nothing but pats on the back for my efforts. Nice, but those don’t buy the latest Prada sandals that I HAD to have.

Next we opened a photography studio, but without the studio. We bought collapsible backdrops and lights and marketed ourselves as traveling family photographers. We booked in all of my friends and soon had a nice little (emphasis on the word little) income stream. We paid off the equipment and eventually earned enough for the shoes.

Emboldened by our success, I began dreaming up more and more ideas and that were further and further from reality. Like my idea for a waterproof kid’s clothing line that would keep the dribbles from soaking through. Purchased: one sewing machine and vast amounts of cloth samples. End result: new curtains for my business partner’s baby room and a bag of cloth shoved in the back of my attic .

Somehow I eventually managed to bring in a few thousand euros by whoring out my marketing talents and writing skills for fractions of what I used to make. I ended up older and more bitter and even further from the shopping sprees I had envisioned. What good is it if you can afford the Prada shoes when you realize that you have to work 200 hours to pay for them?

So now I write this blog in the hopes that someday, someone will stumble across it and think “this woman is a genius” and will shower me with money, book and movie deals. Until then I have finally come up with a guaranteed way to earn more money. I am going to sell my eggs. I figure as long as no one looks closely at my kids and I run a strict no refunds policy, I’ll be doing just fine.

The 007 Family Part 2: Minority Language and School Choices

In Part II, Mama007 takes us through the German education system, the language approach they now take at home (hint, not OPOL) and the choices they’ve had to make when it comes to picking schools. For those of you who missed part one, click here!

via theivycoach.com

Part II: Growing up bilingual in Berlin

Our four-year-old son had to pass his entering exam for elementary school last week. I mean: he is four, FOUR years old. And the German school system already has its claws on him.

And here is why: Germany is a federal state and all its sixteen federal states have their own school regulations and even their own university systems to become a teacher. Basically, there is the same school system all over Germany: after kindergarten and elementary, you are split up. If you are really clever, you get on to Secondary School (called Gymnasium) which means that you will be able to enter University afterwards, if you like. If you are not so clever, then there are two other school types that offer you the possibility to get into a profession afterwards, but you will possibly never end up at university. And this basic system has its own facets in every federal state.

This said, I have to admit that we never much cared about what awaited us and our son when the time for school would have come. There was so much to do and learn with a child that school was on low on our list. But now, this chaotic German school system is awaiting our four-year-old son, who is growing up with a bilingual German-Spanish background.

Languages at home:

We speak Spanish at home because my husband is a native speaker and I speak it fluently too, but when I am alone with my son we speak in German. His Kindergarten is German-speaking, as the alternative would have been to stay at home until he could attend the only option  Spanish Kindergarten which takes kids from the age of THREE! Sorry, but we have to earn money too. We also wouldn’t change him just for the language. He has been at his nursery since his first birthday. I mean – what’s the point of changing the child, taking him from his friends and everything just so he can attend a Spanish-speaking Kindergarten? This was out of question for us. Right now, he speaks Spanish with his father when he likes to. He understands everything and his German is also just great.

Schools, Admissions and Test Prep:

On his third birthday, I was first confronted with the German school system. One of his best friends was moved to another Kindergarten because she will attend a private school for which a special private Kindergarten between age 3 and 6 is a pre-requisite. Okay, so that was that friend gone. The next year after that, I heard a lot about preparations bilingual parents from his group were giving to their children: language vacations, prolonged stays with their French/Spanish/ African relatives, special language courses for children in the respective language. And let´s be frank: we are talking about three and four-year-old kids. When I asked the parents, I was told that they did all this because they wanted their children to attend bilingual elementary schools in two or three years.

Bilingual elementary schools are a specialty of Berlin. Berlin demands that you send your child to school at age five. There are almost no exceptions to this rule. If you like, you may choose a bilingual school, there are more than twenty of them: German/ English, French, Spanish, but also Turkish, Greek or Vietnamese. The classes are held in both languages and in most schools the child leaves with a special language certificate, which makes it easier to get into a bilingual Gymnasium. The thing is: your child has to pass the test. Which test? The bilingual German/ whatever-language-you-choose-test. Obviously, we looked up if there was a German/Spanish school near our home. There was. So what test has our son to pass to get into this school? No one knows, but everybody suspects.

The other parents were sure that the test was vital, super important and had to be prepared extensively, hence all the vacations, courses and the like. But really, nobody knew what the test consisted of and the schools won’ t tell. So you are left completely alone, relying on information from other parents with children who have passed the test last year or the year before. And this information is doubtful at best because NO parent is allowed to be present at the test. Its only your child and two teachers. That’s it. That’s what we were informed.

So, as there was no information about the test, we prepared our son only a little. We talked more Spanish, we told him that his future teachers would like to get to know him but that they speak only Spanish so he had to respond in Spanish. But we did no courses and no extra vacations. We just hoped that he would do the same as at home: speak and be himself.

The Big Day: taking the test!

Last week the big moment had arrived. They took our son inside a room, he is not even five years old, and asked him questions in and Spanish about visiting a piscina. Is there no other possibility? Has it to be a nearly elitist activity as swimming? What about children whose parents don t have money to got swimming with them? Why not pick anything normal as shopping groceries or going to the park? We live in a flat; there is no pool. Nor do we know anybody who has one. We have not gone to a piscina until now because there are so many other activities: climbing, cooking, reading. But the school decided that every child interviewed had to have knowledge about swimming. I don’t get it….

When they were finished the teachers came out and told us that it was over, and the result would be available in six months and they were not allowed to tell us anything about the test and how our son had done. We phoned other parents, the French-speaking, the Spanish-speaking. Some children had failed. Some had resisted to speak to a complete stranger without their parents. Some were able to communicate but couldn´t form complete sentences with grammatically correct conjugated verbs in their second language. And were thus criticized or failed. And all of them were treated like we were: in a cold, impersonal manner. One teacher even told us that our son was “still small”. What does that mean? The federal state Berlin urges me to put my child NOW into school. Now, at age five. Which means, that he has to pass his exam at age four. Yes, he is small, but there is no real alternative and anyway: shouldn’t the teachers be prepared for small children if they teach at elementary school?

I was so upset. And felt helpless. If we want our child to attend this school we have to do all this. But we resolved to be patient and made a reservation at another elementary school. If he can´t get into this bilingual school, then they will accept him and he will go to a nice, friendly school just around our corner. And everyone there speaks: German. I wouldn´t mind that.