I'm a mom and an expat, which makes my kids expats, too. And because my kids are a part of this story here, I will share their experiences a long with my own.
Cecilia has officially started third grade! That itself in incomprehensible to me because I don't know how I went from having a roly-poly little baby to having a tall 3rd grader who likes Monster High and the color purple. This is Cecilia's first year not at her old school, the same one I attended as a child. It is her first year at a Mexican school, which terrifies me beyond all belief.
Even though I am fluent in Spanish, Cecilia speaks almost none. As a small child, she was bilingual, speaking in English to my parents and in Spanish to Hector's mother. But as we lived more and more years with my parents, she lost her Spanish, and it's proven difficult for me to teach her, because she doesn't want to be taught anymore (another post altogether!).
Anywho, we took her down and enrolled her in the local public elementary school.
On the first day, we still hadn't found where to buy her uniform; we drove all over Tijuana looking, and apparently it can only be purchased from the school, or one little tiny store not far away, but easily missable. They are more expensive that way. Every school in Mexico has a uniform; it helps promote equality and all of that jazz. Most school's uniforms are available at a big uniform store, but I'm not that lucky. It doesn't bother me so much except the laundry part of it. It's a constant wash and wear. I wore a uniform when I started at my private school as a child. Cecilia looks MUCH cuter in hers than I did in mine.
I was nervous to leave her at the school; unlike in the US, they don't let the parents into the school or the classrooms except for certain things. I am used to staying with Cecilia at school for a few minutes while she gets settled. Here they discourage that, and with exception of the first day, don't let you in the gates to go in with your child. The principal stands at the gate and stops you. The school supplies are ridiculous here and they make your wrap everything in clear contact paper. They make you label everything. The supplies include a hula-hoop. I was terrified they'd treat her badly for me being white (I know that it sounds ridiculous, but add on the fact that she can't speak, read, or write the language and it's not that far-fetched of an idea).
However, by the time I picked her up (at noon, because kids only go to school for 4 hours a day!), she was happy and content with her school, her classmates, and her teacher. She had proudly announced that she had already made a friend. I was relieved.
The difference this year is that Hector was able to come along on her first day. He has never had the chance to take Cecilia to school before. These are the things that are taken for granted. He missed so many of her "firsts". He was deported right before she started Kindergarten. But this is why we are here in Mexico, living our lives here: we are being a family. He doesn't have to miss anymore firsts, or parts of his kids' lives. He gets to participate and we get to be together. Mexico is being good to us.