Thursday, September 14, 2006

What it's like: part 3 (kids)

Parenting is an adventure no matter where on earth you are at, but it can be even more of a challenge, and more of a delight when you are overseas.

Everyone has a cute MK story about this or that, and my regular public blog (which shall remain unknown and unlinked to this blog) is full of funny stories about my kids. I'll spare you the stories and focus on the challenges of raising "Third culture kids". The notion of TCK's is that they don't fit in their parent's culture and they don't fit in their host culture. They have a culture all their own. And when you have lived in as many countries as we have, we aren't even sure of what they call their own...

What got me thinking about this particular subject today is a derogatory comment my pre-teen said to my wife today. The comment was something like "Why can't you make this 'home'"? Of course, that is about the worse thing a kid can say to their mother. Our youngest child, simply couldn't even understanding the sibling asking that question and got rather upset that it was asked, because that child's definition of home is "where ever your suitcases are". The basis of the pre-teen's question is rooted in the many, many moves we have made over the past years and having to say numerous good-byes and having to start over making friends.

So it got me thinking about what "home" is. For me, "home" will always be back in the Greatest State in the Union. Even if I NEVER live there again, I'll always consider it "home". Even when I lived in Hell (Los Angeles), I went "home" for Christmas. I asked my wife what home meant to her. She said that it used to mean the Greatest State in the Union, but now, she doesn't know any more. She said that she has tried really hard to make a couple of the places to feel like home, but they really never got there, except in two instances. She said she is really, really trying to make this new place seem like home. Me, too.

Back to MK issues... Their normal growing up years is so vastly (and sometimes ghastly) different from mine. I lived in the same town until I left for college. I had a yard, two dogs and two cats. I went to a rural school through 8th grade. I lived in the same town as grandparents. I went hunting practically whenever I wanted. My kids had a dog, but it was bitten by a black mamba and died. My kids live 10,000 miles from their grandparents. My oldest child started off in pre-school in a foreign language school, where this child didn't speak one word of the language. This child ended up being first in the class in both pre-school and kindergarten! Private ownership of guns has been illegal in every country we have lived in, so hunting is just out of the question for my kids.

In my growing up years, all we had to worry about was Viet Nam or the Cold War. I never saw any act of "civil disobedience" during the civil rights 'era'; my home town was just too small and didn't care. My kids have seen extreme poverty, public riots, and incredible hostility. They have heard bombs, grenades and machine gun fire. In fact, several years ago, we were in the US. An ambulance happened to go by and my mother asked one of my kids if they heard lots of sirens over there in Lalaland. My brave little child answered, "no grandma, just machine gun fire". That statement haunts us to this day.

I have ended up with some incredible kids. Well, despite the fact that they don't like hot dogs, they speak multiple languages, understand nuances of different cultures and can sing the national anthem of several different countries. They understand lostness. They understand the need for compassion. They ask deep questions, not just about silly things. Yes, they are still kids and as a parent, I still have to get on to them. They certainly aren't perfect. But I'll bet they will be some of the most interesting people their friends will ever meet when they go off to college!


GuyMuse said...

Don't despair. I'm an TCK too, an MK and some of us actually survive the craziness. Having said that, our greatest concern is also for our two MKs. Will they adapt? Are they getting what they need? How will they turn out? etc.

Kiki Cherry said...

I'm with Guy.

My brother and I grew up during a war, too, had cobras in the house, malaria, etc.

And survived.

I actually think adjusting back to American life was tougher. I wet my pants on furlough in 3rd grade, the first time I had to go to public school.

But survived that, too. And came through stronger for it.

Tell your kids TCKs rock. I'm proud to be one, and proud to have two of my own little MKs now. Wouldn't change a thing.