When parents are from different countries... - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 29 Old 06-03-2003, 07:55 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm interested to hear how other couples have dealth with issues that arise when the parents are from different countries / cultures. My dh is from England, and we live in America. However, he is VERY English (he is only living here to make me happy - he'd much rather be in England) and wants to raise our daughter to be English as well as American. We very well may move to England in the not-so-distant future, so it makes sense to incorporate English traditions / holidays / culture, etc. into our parenting. But it's difficult for me when theres so much of American culture to teach to remember to incorporate English. One issues that comes to mind is table manners - they are very different in England than in America. Some things (table manners) that are considered etiquette in England are considered rude here. How do I teach her American table manners when her father will be doing things that I'll be teaching her are rude. Does this make sense? Has anyone else dealt with this sort of thing?
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#2 of 29 Old 06-03-2003, 08:39 PM
 
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Can you give some examples?


In any event, I have found that kids tend to adapt pretty quickly to "cultural norms" When I was a camp counselor, I had a group of kids from Etheopia, and they came eating with their hands. These were eight year old girls and they quickly saw this was a "no no" here. They were eating with a knife and fork within a week.
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#3 of 29 Old 06-04-2003, 12:31 AM
 
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I am also a little confused as to what English table manners are considered rude by Americans? I am British married to an American and I only ever get comments on how well mannered my kids are.

I'm just curious. :

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#4 of 29 Old 06-04-2003, 01:40 AM
 
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My husband is French, and apart from her not speaking French very well yet, I haven't noted any serious cultural differences that would shock the French!

My MIL does make comments from time to time about how permissive I am. For example, she swears it is unacceptable in France for a child to touch things in a store. I figure that as long as she's not breaking anything or doing something I wouldn't do, I don't care.

But I don't worry about it and don't think it will prevent her from getting along just fine there some day!

I agree with alexa07 that kids are so adaptable.
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#5 of 29 Old 06-04-2003, 08:41 AM - Thread Starter
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The table manners I'm speaking of are holding the fork upside down and always holding a knife. I know it sounds petty, but I was raised to cut my food, then place the knife on the table until I needed it again. And to hold the fork a certain way. But I noticed English people do these things (even Queen Victoria did them in the movie Mrs. Brown, so I know it's not just my husband's family and friends). Anyway, I always notice in restaurants in England that I'm the only one not doing these things, so I'm sure it looks like I don't have the proper table manners when I'm over there. So I don't want dd to stand out in that regard when/if we move to England. But for the life of me I can't figure out how to teach her two different ways to eat!
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#6 of 29 Old 06-04-2003, 09:15 AM - Thread Starter
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My apologies if my post sounded like I was insulting English table manners. I don't want this to end up a debate between English and American table manners, because I have a real question here. Let me switch gears - what about holidays then? Should we celebrate 4th of July? Thanksgiving? Boxing Day? All of them or only the shared holidays?
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#7 of 29 Old 06-04-2003, 09:44 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by MilliesMum
The table manners I'm speaking of are holding the fork upside down and always holding a knife. I know it sounds petty, but I was raised to cut my food, then place the knife on the table until I needed it again. And to hold the fork a certain way. But I noticed English people do these things (even Queen Victoria did them in the movie Mrs. Brown, so I know it's not just my husband's family and friends). Anyway, I always notice in restaurants in England that I'm the only one not doing these things, so I'm sure it looks like I don't have the proper table manners when I'm over there. So I don't want dd to stand out in that regard when/if we move to England. But for the life of me I can't figure out how to teach her two different ways to eat!
Now I understand! I would have to say you (American's) are doing it wrong! Anyway, I have a 13 year old who can eat both ways, depending where she is. So I wouldn't sweat it. No one in the UK is going to be concerned if younger children don't "hold" their knife and fork correctly!

To be honest, I think you a making a "meal of this"

Deborah

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#8 of 29 Old 06-04-2003, 09:57 AM
 
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As for your question about teaching how to hold fork and knife the proper british way... this is actually how they do it in just about every other country other than the US. 12 years ago I lived abroad for the first time and have many times since then. I now hold my utensils the "European" way, but it was never considered "rude" doing it the "American" way... it was just obvious I was American.

That being said, I do know what you mean about raising children to respect two cultures. My husband is from Turkey, but he is a Christian minority there. At times his customs seem more Greek than Turkish, even. We celebrate both Orthodox and Protestant religious holidays and even some Muslim holidays that he grew up with although he's not Muslim (Bayram, for example). In Turkey, they don't really have secular holidays.

Other examples... sometimes we eat traditional American meals (Ham on Protestant Christmas, for example), sometimes traditional Turkish or Armenian meals (4 hours of mezes before the main course of lamb and eating into the wee hours of the morning). We typically eat a middle eastern breakfast of feta cheese and olives, but sometimes we eat pancakes instead. In my dh's culture, adults don't receive birthday gifts... he doesn't get anything from me for his bd (it would make him uncomfortable), but he buys me something for mine. Dd, of course gets birthday presents. Orthodox Christmas is always spent at church, which we do, and my Christmas tradition is to spend with family. So on Dec. 25th, we are with my family, but Jan. 6th we are in Turkey with his family and at his church. Having said all of that... for our dd, this is, and I anticipate will always be normal for her. I expect that she will act appropriately when she is with dh's family as she gets older as well as with my family. I really have no worries about it. It's just like raising her bilingual. At 16 months she understands everything I say and everything her dad says and has a good mix of active vocabulary in both languages. She doesn't know that being bilingual (or bicultural) is "different". She probably never will until it is pointed out to her later in life.

Even if you move back to the UK, I think your kids will adjust just fine. I really believe it is the adults that are inflexible. Kids adapt in no time. Just incorporate both sets of cultural traditions when you can. BTW, my dh's family, being Christian in a Muslim country also have two sets of holidays and they celebrate most all of both sets. They do not fast for Ramazan, for example, but do celbrate the breaking of the fast. Hope this has helped. I'm sure you'll all be fine!! Good luck!
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#9 of 29 Old 06-04-2003, 09:59 AM - Thread Starter
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uccomama- you're probably right that I'm making a meal of this. It never seems to bother anyone but me, but I guess it's from having table manners CRAMMED down my throat as a kid. It was a huge thing for my mom, so I guess it's always in the back of my mind and I've been worrying about how to teach dd (although I will be much less fanatical about it than my mother was).

It's too early to worry about it now anyway - dd's not even eating solids yet!!! :LOL
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#10 of 29 Old 06-04-2003, 10:31 AM
 
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Hi Donna~

My dh is from Mexico, so I completely understand the difference in culture's thing. (Even posted about it in Parents as parnters!)

One thing that irritates the piss out of me, is that he will make the kids finish all of their food. Oh how that grates on my nerves.

Anyhoo, I agree that the kids need to learn some of both culture's... but their are some things I will NOT teach my kids.
And dh knows it.
My BIL's (they both live in the states) even get kind of upset that I am raising my children so 'liberal like'.
I was even told that I needed to raise Hailey to be more subservant to men, so that when she grows up she will understand her place better as a wife.
OK- even though I want nothing more for my daughter than to be a good wife, and have a great family.
There is no way in hell that I will teach her to cower to some man.

I want my daughters to grow up with a great sense of who they are... after all, if it wasn't for us women.. there wouldn't be any men to wait on YKWIM?

Anyhoo... I guess my comment turned into a rant
My dh is pretty good at compromising though.

Talk to your dh and decide what is the most important things for you, and for him.. then find a happy medium.
You and he will both have to make some concessions.

Good Luck~ Jodi
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#11 of 29 Old 06-04-2003, 11:36 AM
 
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My dh is from India, and the only one from his family who lives away from India. I'm an American. At first he was calling dd Indian, ignoring the heritage I had given her from my side (Scottish). He had a strong set of ideals that he wanted her to have. Since her birth he's become closer to my family and heard some of the family history and stories and has a new appreciation of my heritage. Finally, as she's growing up, he's realizing that first and foremost she's American and since she's living here, she should be raised as an American. However as she gets older we plan to teach her the social rules of India so when we visit she won't offend. Perhaps you can do the same thing-- as the child gets older explain that in America you do xyz and in England you do abc.

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#12 of 29 Old 06-04-2003, 11:53 AM - Thread Starter
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USAmma, I know what you mean. Dh used to be very critical of America and Americans, but the longer he's here, the softer he gets about it (although he's still VERY English). I told him that once dd was born, I wanted all criticism of American culture to stop. She will be 50% American and I don't want her to grow up with a bad attitude about that part of her heritage. Now and then he'll still say "You bloody Americans." and I have to call him on it. He can't help it! It's his favorite pastime!
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#13 of 29 Old 06-04-2003, 12:29 PM
 
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I haven't got any advice for you MilliesMum, but I just wanted to pass something funny I heard last night.

I'm embarrassed to say I watched "American Juniors" on Fox and one of the little girls said "My family's great, because we're all Italian! I'm 100% Italian! Everyone in my family is Italian!... well, except my mom, her side of the family's not Italian." :LOL
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#14 of 29 Old 06-04-2003, 04:41 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for sharing nomadic. :LOL I have a strong feeling that's exactly how it will be in our house!!!
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#15 of 29 Old 06-05-2003, 08:55 PM
 
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"When in Rome, do as the Romans do"

Words to live by.

"The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic."
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#16 of 29 Old 06-05-2003, 09:02 PM
 
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RE: American -vs- British table manners.

Before Pearl Harbor pulled the US in to WWII, many Americans joined the British forces to fight the Nazis. They were good soldiers who trained in the Scottish Highlands and were very good. The biggest problem was to teach them to eat "British Style" using the fork with the left hand and cutting with the right. It was imperitive that they eat like Brits because America was supposed to be neutral at that point in time.

"The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic."
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#17 of 29 Old 06-05-2003, 09:40 PM
 
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As the non American parent in the USA, I feel it's important to teach dd some of my county's customs. I do feel though that's my responsibility, not dh's. I can't expect him or his family to know much about my country. I think your husband, if he wants to teach some English customs, he should take responsibility for them so you don't feel like you have to do 2 of everything. You shouldn't have to remember all that stuff. With holidays, that can get a bit overwhelming. And you're living in the USA, so you don't have to celebrate the English customs in a big way. I tend to blend things, like at Xmas there doesn't seem to be any special American dessert whereas the English have plum pudding. So I add that.

One thing I'm going to do is make up a scrapbook of my country and my childhood there, with stories about important things. So then it'll all be written down with pictures and photos and my daughter will be able to appreciate my background. I feel if I do this, my background and culture won't feel so 'left out' when there are American holidays.

I really doubt anyone will think your children are rude in this situation. I mean people will know they are half American, half English. Being a bit 'foreign' is a great excuse for stuffing things up
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#18 of 29 Old 06-05-2003, 10:17 PM
 
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My dh is from Canada and I am a US citizen. We celebrate both holidays. My son will be a dual citizen until he is 18 (haven't done the paperwork yet).

Kids learn quickly. I lived in Scotland for a year when I was 20 and I picked up the way they eat quickly. I still like to eat that way. I think it seems like a more proper way to eat. It is a skill to be able to eat your peas on an upside down fork When I need to use a knife I usually eat that way. I haven't had any negative comments in the past 10 or so years, just one person asked me if I was British.
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#19 of 29 Old 06-06-2003, 12:43 AM
 
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Twenty-three years ago, I lived in England and on the Continent.

I was astonished that many people were rude to me because I am American. One shopkeeper sneered at me in Chester, England that my accent sounded rather "Western". He coughed and showed me the door after I bought some of his wares. The customs officers at Heathrow were very rude also. I am sure they felt no obligation to welcome me warmly to their country as it was not their job, but it would have been nice. I felt that most people who did not know me felt that Americans were uncivilized brutes, the wild west, if you will. I did discuss America's system of government with some visiting Aussies who told me they felt it was ridiculous and unworkable ( the federal system).

I did develop a taste for warm Cola and warm beer, especially Guinness/Heineken.

Contrary to popular belief here in America, I did very well in France. I picked up the language easily, and enjoyed the lifestyle while there (My FIL was from Alsace-Lorraine).

In Germany, I remember having a bathroom matron yell insults at me loudly in German because she wanted to sell me TP, which is the custom, as I am told.

Anyway, to each his own. I enjoyed each country I was in, and tried not to step on anyone's toes. I did my best not to be the "Ugly American". We are one people in one world.

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#20 of 29 Old 06-06-2003, 12:46 AM
 
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To JodiM:

Look up the word "machissmo".

"The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic."
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#21 of 29 Old 06-06-2003, 12:51 AM
 
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I am by myself a cultural mixing pot, and my children will be more so.

The more culture the better. Better to be a citizen of the world than stuck inflexibly with one culture.

There is nothing wrong with learning about all the holidays, or that there are more than two ways to use a fork. (funny I always thought North Americans held their forks upsidedown)
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#22 of 29 Old 06-06-2003, 02:34 AM
 
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i'm sure you'll do fine, blending the traditions and explanations as the need arises.

on the whole fork and knife thing... I hold my fork in my left and knife in my right, for most of the meal. I just find that it makes more sense and is easier then setting down, switching hands, and picking up and switching over again, after each bite a big hassle. So, i don't do it. I am able to take take smaller bites and not have a lot of wasted movements.
That being said, i wasn't raised like that. We usually cut, set down, eat, pick up etc... but, I don't anymore. No one says anything and I've never noticed any dirty looks.
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#23 of 29 Old 06-06-2003, 03:09 AM
 
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As a Brit married to an American, I understand where you're coming from - but it's a matter of what you're used to. I found dh's American manners really difficult to deal with at first.

But I soon got him trained.

Seriously, I have persuaded him to put his knife and fork together when he's finished eating - the untidiness really bugged me. Otherwise, his manners don't bother me as he's got good American manners. I think that bad manners stand out whatever the customs of the country you're in, and it's the bad manners that bother me, not the American manners.

Having said that, we are bringing our girls up with British table manners. It is interesting that you worry about your children being seen as rude in the USA if they use English manners. I see it differently - in the US, English manners are seen generally as quaint and curious. However, American manners in the UK can be seen as rude, for example eating with just a fork, which was an absolute no-no in my day and age. Having said that, things are so much more relaxed in the UK now that I really don't think it would be a problem for your children to have American manners there - just make sure you talk loudly with an American accent, then you'd be forgiven!

I do know that on many MBA courses in the US, students have to learn British table manners so that they can go to good restaurants in the UK and handle the manners thing. I don't think British MBA students have to study American manners though.

As for holidays and festivals, we love having dual nationality (plus German, as Dh is half German). We enjoy all the festivals (although I have to admit to not enjoying Halloween as like many Brits, I find it uncomfortable, but we do it because it is a tradition here). We do Bonfire night, make mince pies and Christmas pud at Christmas, eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, put out our shoes for Saint Nick like all German children, then also celebrate all the US holidays. I try to see it that our children get the best of all three worlds.

We're a few years into this English-American mix, and all I can say is - try to lighten up, not worry, and enjoy it. It is interesting, and it can be difficult, but it is also a lot of fun.

And cut your dh some slack when he bashes Americans - I find myself doing it, partly out of homesickness and displacement - we really are divided by a common language and if your dh is like me, he'll never really feel that this is his home. It's tough being away from home, especially if people don't like your table manners!
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#24 of 29 Old 06-06-2003, 09:44 AM
 
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My dh is Moroccan Berber. Ds understands and even uses a few Berber words (everyday words that come in handy on visits), but his first language is English. He eats very well with flatware, but he is also capable of tearing off bread and using it for a utensil, like my ILs do.
Our family is Muslim, but because we live in the US, close to my family (all Christians), ds is being raised very familiar with and respectful of g-ma and g-pa's holidays and customs. My family has adjusted to our dietary restrictions with relatively few uncomfortable exchanges.
We will work hard to travel to Morocco with some regularity as our children grow. Dh would like to send me with the kids for 3 months, during which he'd visit a month, so they would really "get" the local languages and culture. I hope it will be possible in the future...
I guess, the way I see it, ds will absorb American culture through a lot of osmosis, so it makes sense for us to work harder to prepare him for better, more enjoyable experiences on visits to N. Africa.
We took him to visit when he was 17-18 months. He was totally comfortable in the ILs culture--he got terribly sick and was covered in flea bites by the end...but that is an issue of destitution, rather than culture. He took well to people kissing him out of nowhere on the streets, and the generally different way of doing just about everything in Morocco. I look forward to the next visit with him. He made it much more bearable for me (I also got sick and my flea bites were worse than his!).
Ds's favorite drink is Moroccan tea, and he loves to snack on "zitoun" (olives). He eats cumin on his hard cooked eggs, and noodles for breakfast. I have absolutely no problem promoting these "quirks."
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#25 of 29 Old 06-06-2003, 12:01 PM
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I never realised there was a difference in the way Americans eat! I was born in the States and we moved to Canada when I was 8. You have reminded me that my first friend here (and still a close friend 33 years later!) used to tease me about the way I ate! Because I scooped my food with my right hand and she stabbed it with her left. It was embarrassing because I didn't realise that my manners were perfectly acceptable in the States. I thought I was doing something wrong and I have been self conscious of my manners ever since. I had completely forgotten about this until I read your post. I'm seeing her tonight and boy will she get an earful!
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#26 of 29 Old 06-06-2003, 01:09 PM
 
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However, American manners in the UK can be seen as rude, for example eating with just a fork, which was an absolute no-no in my day and age. Having said that, things are so much more relaxed in the UK now...
I was raised with good american table manners by a strict mom. Imagine my surprise when my british BIL gave me the hardest possible time in a "fancy" restaurant for having american table manners! I had always heard it was abysmally rude to bring up another's manners in anyway, shape or form. He did not leave me alone about it for years. I learned how to eat euro-brit style from my british dh but continued to use american style manners around my BIL just to get the rise out of him. He finally shut it when I told him point blank that pointing out other's manners is hopelessly middle-class and neurotic.

Our kids are being raised with euro-brit manners at dh's insistence. We also celebrate boxing day and horde fireworks for Guy Fawkes Day. Christmas Crackers with silly hats at Christmas. Etc. If it makes him happy...

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#27 of 29 Old 06-06-2003, 03:06 PM
 
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During WW2 the Germans would listen at people's doors at mealtimes. If they heard cutlery against the plate they knew there were Americans in there, as Europeans don't keep picking up and putting down their knives and forks.

I'm Irish, married to a Northern Irishman, and there is a difference there!!

Oklahoma Mama, your ds should have dual citizenship for life. All you need to do (assuming he was born in the US) is register him as a Canadian born abroad at the Embassy in Washington.
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#28 of 29 Old 06-06-2003, 08:54 PM
 
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MilliesMum, my dh is British too, and when we first met, I thought he had atrocious table manners! I didn't know any better The first time we visited his family in England, I think I was making an attempt to eat the "proper way", when his mom quit putting a knife at my place!! I guess I didn't succeed! Dh is pretty laid back about the holidays. The thing that is cute but sometimes drives me nuts is that ds (3 1/2) talks with a British accent!! And I can't even say "garage" the American way anymore! Just today, I was explaining that "supper" in this country is the evening meal (unless you call it dinner) and in England it is the bedtime snack. Ds picks up on all the differences and seems to prefer to do everything like his dad - maybe its a guy thing?! And I encourage dh to avoid name-calling of any kind around ds - poor example and all that. Children are so amazing, I'm pretty sure your situation will work out fine
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#29 of 29 Old 06-07-2003, 01:41 AM - Thread Starter
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Britishmum - you're right - I'm the only one who has had ever said anything about dh's "manners". I don't even know if anyone else has ever noticed that he does things differently. I think I'm just a stickler for these things - the "rules" were a big deal for my family growing up, so I notice more than most. I just wasn't sure which way to teach dd, but I guess she'll be exposed to both ways and choose which ever she wants. I try to cut dh some slack about his "America bashing". I just don't want dd to grow up thinking Americans are quaint idiots, which is what you'd think if you listened to dh for long! :LOL I know he is very homesick - he was on his way back home when we met and only stayed because of me. We didn't move to England because I had two dogs and didn't want to quarantine them. So he's been a fish out of water for 10 years now.

Applejuice - I've always noticed that when I'm in England, that the Engish treat me (as an American) with an odd combination of awe and disgust. I think they *really* do like Americans and America a great deal, but they just have fun bashing us - kind of like many Americans do the French.
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