As we stood at passport control in Newark Airport, I looked at the agent nervously.
He had to let me in – this much I knew. Despite the fact that I hadn’t stepped foot on US soil since 2014, I’m still a US citizen. But my baby isn’t.
He flicked his eyes from the photo on her British passport to her face, then back again. The photo was taken when she was three months old, when she was a very bald and angry baby, and she was nearly 12 months old now. Did he have children of his own? Did he know how quickly they change? He was probably already suspicious of us – a married American couple with different surnames who left two years ago and returned with a small British person who they claimed was theirs. I held my breath.
“When is the British baby leaving?” he asked.
“On the 30th,” I said.
He nodded and stamped our passports. We were in.
Having a baby with a different nationality is one of the weirder things about being an expat parent. (We can get her US citizenship too, but since this costs money and involves a trip to the embassy in Edinburgh, we haven’t bothered yet.) However, it’s by far not the only challenge to raising your child in a different country:
Being away from family.
This is the most obvious issue. While many of my friends have grandparents, aunts and uncles nearby to help out, Adrian and I are entirely on our own. Grandma would love to babysit, but she lives an ocean away. The Popple has two cousins the same age who should be her best friends, but she’ll probably only get to see them once a year.
We realised how much it sucked after our visit to New York. The Popple spent a week and half surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles, great grandparents and cousins, and she loved it. So much attention. So many new faces to wave at. So many people willing to share baby-watching duties. My husband and I even managed several dates. Granted, they were all in the daytime and didn’t last more than an hour and a half, and we mostly talked about the baby anyway, but still. DATES.
Knowing her childhood will be different than mine.
If I continue to raise the Popple in the UK, her childhood will look different than mine. Not necessarily better or worse, but just…different.
She’ll watch Bonfire Night fireworks in November instead of Independence Day fireworks in July. She’ll leave sherry and mince pies for Santa instead of milk and cookies. She’ll celebrate St Andrew’s Day at the end of November instead of Thanksgiving.
She’ll probably watch Peppa plopping Pig.
Making sure they understand and appreciate their culture.
It’s hard to escape American culture these days. I mean, it’s pretty much everywhere, with British TV showing everything from Duck Dynasty to Toddlers and Tiaras, and the presidential election making headlines in every news outlet. But I want the Popple to know that American culture is more than Donald Trump and gun nuts and truck nuts and spoiled toddlers.
I want her to know that America is a place where anything is possible. Literally. It is home to the Toilet Seat Art Museum, drive-thru liquor stores and deep-fried butter. It is country where this is a monument to one of our most beloved presidents.
America is a place where people aren’t afraid to dream big – or dream weird. My greatest hope as a parent is that my daughter will feel free to dream the biggest, weirdest dreams possible and make them happen.
Even if her dreams look like giant, grinning peanuts.