Thoughts on Being a Third Culture Kid: Choice

by mendibpng

joe

(above) Josiah gets to sit in the ‘copilot’ seat on our way back to Ukarumpa, where he stays in a hostel for 2-5 weeks at a time during translation or literacy workshops.

As I explained in my background post: my parents had no other option but to send us to boarding school. However, if Ben and I felt like the hostel was becoming difficult for our son, we could always change our schedule or limit our village stays to only go when school was out of session.  I think it’s important to note Ben’s perspective here:

We are able to do this because my work is not always tied to a place. I can still get a lot of valuable work done remotely. Other mission jobs may not be this flexible, so we are blessed by new technology and new ways of working that put our national colleagues in the driver’s seat so that everything does not always depend on us.

 But this is also something that we were convinced of before we were even married and we knew that God was calling us to follow his will in his various callings on us, including Bible translation and parenting.

Sometimes our kids may feel like they have no choice when it comes to village life, but their thoughts and desires are important to us and we consider them carefully when we make plans to go to the village.

My mom pointed out recently that mission agencies now are more aware of family needs. I agree! When my parents arrived in Indonesia in 1975, their mission personnel insisted that this was the only option for their children’s schooling. Their choice was limited: either follow the mandatory boarding school policy or leave their mission and life’s work. I am not certain, but I think home school materials were not as available or good back in those days.

As for me, it would have been hard to tell my parents that I couldn’t cope because that meant that they would have to leave their ministry. It was very complex! I like how one (adult) missionary kid put it to me, “I didn’t want to be the reason my parents had to leave the ministry that God called them to.” I am certain that if anyone had asked me directly, I would have said “I’m fine” even if I wasn’t. I would tell them that I had the best life in the world (and I believed it!) but I couldn’t acknowledge the other stuff.

For an interesting perspective on the subject of things [some] Preacher/Missionary Kids struggle with, I would recommend the book, “I have to be Perfect (and Other Parsonage Heresies),” by Timothy Sanford. I don’t think we all believe all 10 of these things, but perhaps some of these strike a chord with some of us.

From Sanford’s book listed above:

The Holy Heresies the PK/MK’s Often Develop

I have to be perfect.

I should already know.

I’m here for others.

I’m different.

I can’t trust anyone.

I can ruin my dad’s ministry.

Other people’s needs are more important than my own.

I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

God is disappointed with me.

I can relate to some of the lies listed above. For those lies I believed growing up, I don’t believe anyone actually spoke these out loud to me…somehow I absorbed them in boarding school and internalized them, thinking that if I was strong and independent enough, I should be able to cope with just about anything. The best coping mechanism for me was denial, and to ensure that everyone around me was happy.  I am thankful for how God used people in my life, including Ben and my parents, who have refuted them so that I could walk in truth.

 

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6 Comments to “Thoughts on Being a Third Culture Kid: Choice”

  1. I’m proud of you, Mandy, for working through the hard stuff and being willing to be honest with others. I’m glad you’re my friend and your kids are blessed to have you as their mom. Brena

  2. I have really appreciated this series! Just when I thought I’d done my processing…this is bringing it all back! I graduated from Ukarumpa in 1993 after having lived in PNG for 8 years- all 8 of them away from my parents (except for holidays of course). I can totally relate to all but 2 of those ‘heresies’. I also really relate to the concept of living under structure and rules but feeling totally independent and self-reliant. I grew up learning to provide for all my own needs (emotionally more so than physically) and it’s something I’m still trying to unlearn (which has caused some rough spots in my marriage of 16 years!). Anyway, thanks for all your honest, open thoughts.

    • Karen, I am so glad that you are ‘processing’ alongside me. As I get older, I feel like I keep coming back to new things, which inch me deeper and deeper towards truth and understanding. I have a similar experience in marriage and have been working hard to unlearn the self reliance. Thanks so much for commenting!

  3. As PK’s your dad and I probably would agree with a lot of those statements. They would have applied to us too even back in the Fifties. Aunt Gladys

    On Mon, Feb 4, 2013 at 5:49 PM, Living Letters

    • Aunt Gladys, thanks for commenting, yes, I have hard that Stafford’s book has been helpful to PKs as well! I haven’t checked with my kids yet but I am sure they would identify with some of them too!

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