I recently 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.
This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.