Growing Up Expat: Milestones in Another Culture

Just a few days ago, my oldest lost another front tooth.  It isn’t his first and yet, with each baby tooth lost, he looks a little bit older.  I look at this tiny tooth that we are putting under his pillow for the tooth fairy and I can’t help but reminisce.

I remember the first time I saw that little chomper on my tiny 6 month old.  I remember the many nights that tooth kept us all awake and the nearly 1000 times I’ve brushed it.  That tooth made up the sweetest smile I’ve ever seen and enjoyed all the special donut runs we have made together.  I love that little tooth.


These milestones are important.  They make up the magic that is parenthood and childhood.   But what happens when the traditions around milestones are different?  Do you keep the old or embrace the new?

He ended up losing that tooth on the bus ride to school.  His school counselor told me that in Colombia there is no tooth fairy, say what?  There is Ratón Pérez.  He is a little mouse that brings coins in exchange for baby teeth.  Harmless enough.


Learning what customs to introduce and what to leave behind can be sensitive.  We feel attached to our versions of childhood experiences and yet we moved to another place to teach our children the many ways people live around the world.   I found this book where the Tooth Fairy and Raton Perez learn to work together, bridging the gap.  I appreciate being able to integrate this experience while keeping hold of some of those traditions.  It helps our kids understand our host culture, be familiar with the references that other kids may mention.  It also gives our kids an opportunity to discuss differences, be them small for now.


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