I grew up in Missouri. My husband grew up in Russia, and this is where his extended family remained. Now we live together in the Bay Area with our kids. In 2008, we packed up our 3 and a half and nearly 2 year old children and made the trek (24 hours door to door with two toddlers is officially a trek) to Saint Petersburg. Though the trip was not without its challenges, it was wonderful to experience Russia with the kids.
Since day one, Dmitri, my husband, has always spoken with the children in Russian. They have a Russian nanny and many local Russian friends. So, the kids both speak in Russian as well as they do in English. It was such a pleasure to watch them naturally and easily interact with their extended family in Russian. They played games, laughed at their grandfather’s jokes, and chatted endlessly with their slightly older Russian cousin (age 8).
We enjoyed long strolls with the whole extended family in the beautiful parks in St. Petersburg surrounded by canals. We went to the zoo. We played in the neighborhood playgrounds. We ate yummy treats. Max discovered a pretty serious passion for Russian apple juice boxes (not really unlike juice boxes in the U.S., but in plentiful supply and at his reaching distance in his grandparents’ pantry), and both ate a considerable amount of Babuschka’s (grandmother, in Russian) borscht soup. It was a toddler paradise. The jet lag was a little crazy. Visiting almost the exact opposite point on the globe pretty much flips night and day. The kids got a little turned around. They’d be up one moment playing enthusiastically with their cousin, and then moments later crash into deep sleep. I was beyond exhausted, but I have to smile as I recall the trip. This is what it means to be a little citizen of the world – to be equally at home on either side of the globe at the tender age of 2.