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An American mom in Norway

My daughters' Scandinavian customs help me see my own culture through fresh eyes.

On the march: Children’s parades are a popular way to celebrate on May 17, Norway’s National Day.

Bjoern Sigurdsoen/AP/File

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Neither of my daughters has ever seen the pulse of fireflies on a summer evening. They think licorice is supposed to taste salty, not sweet. They've been known to wear wool sweaters in July. They insist that footballs are round and that Walt Disney's most enduring character is named If I hadn't seen their passports myself, I'd never believe they are both American.

I had been married to my Norwegian husband for almost a year when we moved to Oslo. We planned to start our family within a couple of years of our arrival. Although I knew this meant we'd be having our children in Norway, I hadn't fully grasped that they would be... Norwegian. Now, eight years later, I have two daughters who speak two languages, have dual citizenship, and carry four passports between them. This is not the way I imagined it would be.

The pangs I feel are small but frequent. I've grown thicker-skinned about my family's preference for goat-cheese sandwiches over PB&J. It's bittersweet, though, when I try in vain to convince my daughter that the Norwegian train song she likes to sing is really "I've Been Workin' on the Railroad," an American classic. The greatest pang of all comes in wondering if my daughters will ever truly understand their American-ness – and mine – if they don't experience an American childhood firsthand.


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