Me First is definitely the more “American” kid in the family. He likes his burgers and fries. His emotions are easy to read. He has no trouble expressing his likes and dislikes. He roots for the underdog. He loves Ben Franklin and quotes him often, and badly. He’s friendly and talkative, which is necessary in a land where strangers *gasp* make small talk while waiting in line or sitting beside you on the airplane. Me First could make friends with a wall. In fact, I think he may have done that earlier today.
Me First seems to blossom when we are here. Many of the qualities he possesses in excess are encouraged here. Creativity? imagination? Friendliness? Enthusiasm? I think those are all in the pledge of allegiance, or something like that.
Brother loves how the librarian tells them to “Dream big,” and thinks carefully before answering each time someone asks him what he wants to be when he grows up. In Japan, no one ever seems to ask that. Here? No matter how incredible an answer you give, no one ever offers anything but encouragement.
When you’re young, anyway.
Me Too, on the other hand, is more reserved. Where Brother thrives, she withers. She hates it when strangers look at her, much less try to invade her personal comfort zone with unwanted words. She doesn’t do as well with American food. (Except of course for fried chicken, but I think all the peoples of the earth enjoy a good fried bird.) She doesn’t want to Dream Big, she wants to be told what to do. She doesn’t like the way kids come up to her and say, “Let’s play,” anymore than any kid likes an old granny up in your face saying, “Ain’t you so purdy!” (This also happened on our trip to Boston with a regional difference of “Aren’t you a doll!” with this nasal vowel sound they do up there that I can’t imitate.)
The sad part, the tragic part, is that she wants to play with the other kids. She misses out, and she knows she misses out, and she regrets it later. I’m always torn between encouraging her and trying not to push too much, knowing that will only draw her into her shell more, where she’ll close the doors tight and refuse to come out.
But today, Sister made a friend in the playground.
We don’t know her name or how old she is, but it doesn’t matter. A little girl approached Sister, asked her to play, and Me Too did.
And her face beamed.
Like the sunrise in May over a field of daffodils.
Both HRH and I sat there, amazed, and basking in the warmth of that smile.
And I was proud.
Sure, it’s a baby step. Brother does the same thing a gajillion times a day, but for Me Too it was a baby step like Neil Armstrong’s on the moon. One small step for a man, one giant leap for a little girl.