Don't judge me. I may have mentally scarred my child. Hopefully not permanently. As background the holidays have come and gone. Here in Mexico I made my best effort to keep all of our Christmas traditions alive...tree, elf, letter to Santa, cookies, milk, the whole thing. As any good parent of a third culture kid, I also tried to incorporate some Mexican traditions...piñatas, ponche, and posadas. We did a big dinner on the 24th like good Mexicans and Christmas morning craziness like good Americans.
My kids are borderline spoiled everyday, so the holidays are overkill. Stockings are filled and plenty of gifts from Santa as well as family members are under the tree. Christmas was followed by a New Year's trip to Vancouver, Canada, to play in the snow and a trip to San Francisco to visit family. Sounds good so far, right? A pretty spoiled, I mean magical childhood with everything they could need and want. Killing this parenting thing.
Then came Los Reyes Magos (The Three Kings). This is a tradition celebrated here in Mexico where kids put out shoes and a letter on January 5th and receive presents from The Three Kings the morning of the 6th. Santa is a more recent tradition here and while some kids may get something on Christmas, The Three Kings are the real holiday gift bearers and have been for a long, long time. It is The Three Kings Day that Mexican kids really look forward to and talk about when they go back to school. "Que te trajeron los Reyes Magos?" ("What did the Three Kings bring you?")
I am not uneducated on Mexican culture, I just HIGHLY underestimated what it might mean to my oldest child. I thought I was in the clear. The kids got everything they wanted for Christmas and they absolutely do not need a single new toy. We went away on vacation and were in San Francisco on the Three Kings Day. As my son still doesn't really pay attention to what date it is, he had no idea when the 5th and 6th came and went. Plus he was to return to school on the 8th a couple days after Three Kings Day. We never celebrated this day or tradition when living in the US and we have only been living in Mexico for a year and a half. I knew my son knew what it was. He had brought it up in December and I responded, "O yes, that is something Mexican families celebrate here."
We took an overnight flight home from vacation arriving back to Mexico on the 7th at 5 in the morning. We walked into the house still fully decorated from Christmas. My son went straight to the tree and stated in perfect Spanglish, "Los Reyes Magos didn't come. Probably because I didn't leave a shoe." He shrugged and walked away. He was pretty nonchalant about it, so I didn't say anything or bring it up.
The morning that followed came the heartbreaking moment. My son wakes up, walks straight over to the tree, stomps his foot and pouts, now really upset The Three Kings didn't come. You see, he had put out a shoe! The night before he placed a shoe under the tree and didn't mention it to anyone. We didn't notice with all the toys and Christmas decor scattered about the tree.
OMG, my husband and I nearly died as we shot each other panicked glances. We have just crushed our baby's belief system. He believes in Santa and unbeknownst to us, The Three Kings as well. His little heart broken that he did not receive anything even after putting out a shoe, and it is all our fault. How could we not know? How could we let him down? Well, I guess there is no way I could have understood how deeply my child was taking in and absorbing the culture around him. I am not him, and I see everything through a different lens because my background growing up is very different from his experience. Put plainly, I have no idea how Mexican he feels. How American does he feel for that matter? I will probably never know.
Luckily, my husband is quick on his feet. He immediately suggested, "Maybe they went to your grandparent's because we were not here." He called his Mexican mother on the spot and asked if the Kings had arrived to their house on our behalf. Thank God my mother-in-law knew immediately what was going on and responded with a cheery "Si, aqui llegaron y dejaron los regalos." ("Yes, they came and left your gifts.") My son's face lit up and all was right in our world again. My husband explained to the kids he'd pick up the gifts from his parent's house during his lunch break and bring them home that night. The magic of The Three Kings was saved as was my dignity. I hope my son is not scarred for life.
I cannot possibly be the first parent who significantly underestimated how important something was to their kid who was being raised in a culture different from their own. To all of my diplomatic and expat readers, if you have examples of your own, feel free to share in the comments (and make me feel better about my mistake).
In Love & Tacos
Rants of a Diplomat's Wife
Hola, I am an American married to a Mexican Diplomat. I am on my 3rd post as a trailing spouse. The first two posts I joined were in the US, and in July 2018 we moved to Mexico City. Maybe it was the fact that I was pumping out my diplo-babies, or maybe I didn't think anyone would be interested in diplomatic life at my US posts, but I didn't blog then. Now I am in Mexico, and perhaps you might find it interesting to know what life is like here. This is where I share my adventures and thoughts at my current post.