Proud to be a host mom

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - TWO CENTS - By Anna Gil­lian

Ire­cently be­came a host mother. Hav­ing a Chinese stu­dent come to live with my fam­ily in Beijing has brought me joy, fear, and a feel­ing of be­ing closer to un­der­stand­ing what it is like to be the mother of a Chinese child. The dif­fer­ences are vast. What I am learn­ing makes me think about the way I raise my own chil­dren.

When the idea of po­ten­tially host­ing a Chinese child in my home arose, I jumped at the chance. I was very ex­cited to have my chil­dren have a Chinese host sib­ling. I am still ex­cited about all they are get­ting out of this ex­pe­ri­ence. There are the ob­vi­ous things, like my chil­dren hav­ing a free lan­guage ex­change part­ner, hav­ing a built-in friend to play with, and be­ing able to un­der­stand their Chinese peers in school bet­ter.

Be­yond the ben­e­fits, we are learn­ing how study habits dif­fer in each coun­try, imag­in­ing go­ing to univer­sity in a dif­fer­ent coun­try from such a young age, and pon­der­ing the gen­eral in­de­pen­dence of a child will­ing to live with a for­eign fam­ily. In some ways, I am ashamed of how lit­tle my chil­dren study com­pared to our host stu­dent. Chinese stu­dents do­ing hours of home­work is some­thing I have of­ten read about. See­ing it ev­ery night mo­ti­vates my chil­dren to do more than watch TV.

Sev­eral ques­tions plagued my mind be­fore I agreed to be­come a host mother. I won­dered whether I would feel the same about the child as I do my own. Would I have the pa­tience re­quired to raise a child that isn’t bi­o­log­i­cally mine? What would I do if the child mis­be­haves? Would I be the men­tor the child’s par­ents ex­pected me to be?

A strange thing hap­pens when a child that is not bi­o­log­i­cally yours moves into your home. You for­get the child isn’t bi­o­log­i­cally yours. I wor­ried about the child through­out the days in the same way I did my own chil­dren. I hoped he had enough to eat for break­fast, I won­dered if he had some­one to sit with him at lunch, and I hoped his tests all went well at school.

Not many peo­ple have the bless­ing of host­ing an ex­change stu­dent. My ad­vice to any­one who has this op­por­tu­nity would be to take it. Cul­tural dif­fer­ences seem to melt away, and hu­man na­ture takes over. Our fam­ily has grown from this ex­pe­ri­ence. Now, I worry what it will feel like when he leaves our fam­ily to re­turn to his own.

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