Thoughts on Being a Third Culture Kid: Why would you do this to your kids?

by mendibpng

ellie

A while ago, when we were discussing transition and loss that we as a family have experienced, a newcomer to PNG asked me why anyone would chose to raise their kids overseas if we knew our kids would experience so much hardship. I replied that although it’s painful to see my kids suffer (oh how I wish I could shield them from it!), I can see how God can use it in their lives to make them stronger, more compassionate people. One of my kids told me a while ago that a new kid had come to the school and was having trouble relating to the other kids. He said “I think he’s just in transition stress right now, Mom. He’ll be okay in a few weeks.” This is the kind of thing my TCK/missionary mom heart really enjoys hearing…because it means that they are internalizing some of the things that we value as a family: being real and also having compassion for those who are struggling.

Sometimes we are the cause of our kids’ struggles. We fight. We sin. We struggle with boundaries.  I don’t think this is too different from any other family. But the unique challenge is to be a healthy family while living cross culturally and dealing with transition all the time. I am certain my kids are going to need counseling because of how we have raised them and because of the life we have been called to. I’m just going to put that out there so that what I’m about to say can be balanced with the reality of our sinful natures!

I see my kids gaining a wide perspective of culture as they search for the Truth . Understanding truth within the context of culture is something that takes a great deal of maturity, I think. One time our boys were riding down our hill on a skateboard in the rain making a mess of our grass. At first, Ben went out and told them to stop. They were getting muddy from head to toe and in particular were creating a huge mud pit under the laundry line. His concern was mainly for me and what I was going to deal with later. However, when he came inside to talk to me, he realized I didn’t care about the grass, and he went back and told the boys they could play out there again. Later, one of my cheeky boys said something like, “Mom,  it’s not important in your culture to have a clean and neat lawn but it is to Daddy’s .”  We all had a good chuckle because Ben has often joked about the biggest sin in his hometown being  ‘lawn envy’ whereas here, it is not as much of an issue at all.

Dealing with adversity from time to time has given Ben and I the opportunity to point our kids to Jesus. The two kids I’m homeschooling this year during village stays would rather go to school in Ukarumpa with their friends. They find it hard, to be honest, which is in direct contrast to their older brother who would be done with school by 10 am most mornings (and who didn’t require a lesson plan!)  Sometimes when Ben comes home at his 10:00 am break, he sees one or more of us crying in frustration. He and I try to take the opportunity to encourage the kids to pray because Jesus can help us when we have to do things we don’t like or enjoy. He walks through it with us. We’ve seen them grow significantly in this area this year. We’re all grateful, like right now

A final observation I’d like to make is that being a TCK gives my kids the daily opportunity to interact with people from different cultures. Not only do we have Papua New Guinean friends and family who we love and respect in Ukarumpa and in Arop village, but we have many nationalities represented here in our mission community. Countries like the United States, Korea, Canada, Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden, Japan, Finland, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Papua New Guinea (and others!)  are represented at my kids’ school in both teachers and students. It sometimes leaves the kids confused…for instance, when one of my kids had a lesson on Culture, he was supposed to bring in a couple of things that represented the culture he is from. He showed a dollar bill, saying “I’m bringing an American dollar because I’m from America.” Next he held up a Thai cookbook, saying “I’m also Asian because my mom grew up in Asia and cooks a lot of Asian food!” The other day he told me how much he enjoys using Commonwealth terms for things because he is more Commonwealth now than American. Heh heh, I didn’t even know the term “Commonwealth” until I was in high school!

When asked if they would choose to be an MK here in Papua New Guinea or to live elsewhere, all of my kids would choose here. That is a relief but also a challenge.

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4 Comments to “Thoughts on Being a Third Culture Kid: Why would you do this to your kids?”

  1. I think I face some of the same struggles right here in the USA with my kids. Recently found your blog and am loving it!

    • thank you for your comment! I imagine that most parents can find similarities here, particularly if you’ve had experience with transition, etc…

  2. Again! Very well said and explained. I love to hear things that my grandkids say, they are so smart and perceptive. But I am a little prejudiced. lol

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