God's promise for my "third culture kids"
My children are "MKs" (missionary kids) and "TCKs" (third culture kids). I’m grateful for these labels, because it helps me understand them better. I'm also grateful for all the books and articles and blogs that have been written about TCKs, roughly defined as kids growing up in a culture that is different from their parents' passport culture. I have so much more to read and learn as I navigate bringing up my kids in a foreign land.
There are days when I feel guilty for taking my kids away from their country and their family to live here in Central Asia. I mourn the relationships they're missing out on and the opportunities that I had as a kid that they aren’t getting, like having close relationships with family members and celebrating special occasions with them, having the opportunity to play sports that my husband and I did, living in the same place all their lives, and having friends they can see and play with for years and years.
But it’s on these days that I need to remind myself that God loves my kids so much more than I do. He's called us here as a family. God is doing a work in my kids’ lives.
Some days, I stand back and watch my kids in wonder. I see all the ways God is growing them and developing their personalities, and it has nothing to do with my parenting – it’s all because of His grace in their lives.
Being TCKs is growing my kids and teaching them things that maybe they wouldn’t have learned if we had never left home, or maybe it would have just taken longer for them to learn.
Here are a few things I've observed in my kids and that I'm grateful to this missionary lifestyle for:
- They're adaptable. On our home assignment, they slept in 15 different places in just over two months, and they did great. If there was a pet animal in the house where we were staying, our kids immediately felt at home.
- They're growing in confidence. Recently, our church asked us to sing an English song in the service, and they all got up on stage and sang.
- They're enjoying different food. Our littlest could drink tea and eat plov (an oily rice dish) all day long and be happy. They even enjoy the horse meat and can immediately recognize the smell when we walk into friends' homes where they're preparing it for us.
- They enjoy learning different languages. There are days when the kids come home from their international school or from playing with the neighbours, and I have to grab a dictionary to see if the words they're saying to each other are appropriate!
- They're learning to say goodbye well. That is a constant here among the expat community - friends and teachers are constantly leaving, and only occasionally they return. We are constantly having guests staying in our home, and the kids need to say goodbye when they leave. It doesn't make the goodbyes any easier, but I'm grateful for them being taught how to say goodbye well.
My three kids are very close to one another. Our family is the constant in their lives. No matter where we travel, we do it together, and they have shared amazing experiences together. When one kid is staying over at a friend's, the other two seem a bit lost without them. They have a unique shared history together.
When I think about all the pro's and con's of my kids' lifestyle, all that they're missing and all the opportunities they're being given, one thing is constant: God is working out His plan in their lives and they belong to Him.
I hold on to this promise from God for my kids: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine." Isaiah 43:1