Two Families, Too Opposite

international student voice paige in costa rica
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When I came to Costa Rica, I knew I would have to cope with culture shock, a language barrier and making new friends, but I never expected to deal with assimilating into a family opposite of mine.

In the picture from right to left: My dad, my brother Dane, me, my mom, my younger sister Tyne and my older sister Brynne.

At home, I’m one of four. My American parents are very intense, competitive people who pushed my siblings and I to reach our full potential. While this led to numerous fights and many tears, all of us kids turned out to be very bright students and attend prestigious colleges across the nation (Don’t worry Dane, you’ll get there).

Also, I’m a middle child. This means I’ve spent most of my life “flying under the radar,” which means achieving good grades and staying out of trouble to avoid the parental microscope, since their attention usually meant you were in trouble. Thus, I developed a dislike for the limelight and solo act.

(right to left) my host sister and host parents in Costa Rica

However, I am the limelight, solo act and entire Broadway show in Costa Rica— not by choice, I might add. As the only child of an elderly couple, I am constantly the sole focus of their attention: “How was school, Paige? What do you want for dinner, Paige? What are you doing this weekend, Paige?” even though I have an older host sister.

For a middle child, this was overwhelmingly. I realized I had no one to deflect my host parents’ concentration onto, not even a pet! I struggled to NOT be the center of attention (sneaking past the living room, answering questions by asking them questions, etc.) until I finally embraced it. I will never be an only child again who gets treated to Snickers bars every night, Sunday drives through the mountains or my favorite food for every meal.

And while this is a nice break from my true birth order role, I do miss my siblings and dogs. I miss the yelling and barking, fights over clothes and ganging up on our parents to get our way. I miss being constantly being surrounded by people and being swept up in a whirlwind of activity. I miss being a middle child and getting away with (almost) anything simply because I’m quieter than my red-headed sister and nicer than my sassy younger sister.

fambam4However, I plan to fully enjoy this temporary “only child” state until my middle child role is restored in June.

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