What constitutes a good kid?
Buenos Aires Travel Blog› entry 12 of 17 › view all entries
In the United States, a "good kid" (and by kid I am referring to those of the ages 18-24) is someone who attends classes everyday, someone who wins the science fair and spelling bee, someone who made the dean’s list, who volunteered at the Red Cross and the Blue Shield, some one who won a Fulbright scholarship in addition to their eight other ones. In the United States, a mother’s duty, it seems, is to gloat, preen, and be prideful of her offspring’s academic success, their drive, motivation, and care for the world as a peaceful union of nations. A mother brag’s about her kid’s perfection of the church creed, and any other merits derived from success that could potentially lead to a successful (in this sense that means a lot of money and/or prestige) career.
I have been around this my whole life- but from the other side, looking in. My mother hated comparisons and made a point not to brag about my achievements. She tried her best to make sure that I knew that no matter what I did, as long as I truly gave my best effort, she was proud of me. To her, true success was being internally content with your self, and anything that could bring you closer to knowing who you were, or how to make yourself happy was to be "successful." In that respect, she applauded me when I made the dean’s list, won student body president, and joined more clubs than our schools constitution allowed. Still, I knew that I could stop any of it at any point and she would be just as proud. Because of this perspective, I am able to view a unique duality between the cultures of Argentina and the United States.
In stark contrast to the American idea of success, Argentineans view a successful kid as someone who goes out with their friends. This idea has been gathered from my experiences with local Argentines, other study abroad students living with Argentine families, and taxi drivers. It first hit me when I was practicing my Spanish with a taxi driver. We had discussed futbol, the economy, and life in general. Usually, when I say "I’m talking 12 hours of classes, and doing independent research for a professor of Architecture" most people in America respond with "Wow" and continue about how they are impressed with my "dedication," "rigor," or enjoyment of academics. However, this taxi driver (not to be the last) replied with, "if you take that many classes you won’t be able to go out to the clubs?" and he was serious. It seemed to him like a silly idea that a student would want to come to another country just to go to classes. I was again shown this astounding point of view when I talked to my friend Jennifer about her host family in Buenos Aires. She had commented that she was studying every weekend; she was only going out until 10 or so with friends and then coming home so she could get up early. Her host mother sat her down, very seriously, at the kitchen table and said, "Jen, we need to talk. I think you are depressed." Jen noted that in America, she has never gone out as much as she has in Argentina, but that she just can’t keep up. Jens mother was genuinely concerned that there was something wrong with her, because she wasn’t able to brag about how many friends Jen had, about how late she was out every weekend. Another friend of mine, who is still with her host family, had the exact same story. In addition, many of the people that I have met, on the street or in the famous Omnibuses, say that academia isn’t something that people choose to talk about on the street. That mother’s would rather brag about her son/daughter’s social life than their career possibilities!