The original title of this post was “Ten Reasons I Love the Fact that My Kids are TCK’s.”
I couldn’t stop.
My kids are TCK’s and I love it.
I was re-reminded of this simple fact as we traveled back to China together last month. By definition they qualify for full membership as Third Culture Kids even though we now live in our passport country.
As parents we have done our fair share of second guessing and worrying about this. Is this too much transition? Too many goodbyes? Too many hellos? Will they ever have roots? Will they even know what roots are? Are we messing them up for life?
Despite the doubts and challenges I can say wholeheartedly that I love that my kids are TCK’s.
This is what I love
1. I love that they look at a map and see friends instead of stereotypes
You’ve seen them right? World maps that show us the “people of the world.” There is inevitably a soccer player in Brazil, a matador in Spain, a Crocodile Dundee knockoff in Australia and some guy with a pointy hat in China. I love that my daughter sees Brazil and thinks of Pedro who was in her 2nd grade class.
2. I love that they see people and not Disney Characters
Nothing against Disney but cultural cliche’s are fairly standard for animated features. I love that my kids are learning that cliche’s are not the full picture. There are people behind the stereotypes.
3. I love that they hear the world in rich languages and not funny accents
My kids are no strangers to hearing other languages or hearing English with thick, sometimes difficult to understand accents. Mocking those people doesn’t make sense to them though. Why would you make fun someone who speaks a second language poorly when you can’t speak any of theirs?
4. I love that they can empathize with language learners
We’ve lived on the flip side of speaking a second language poorly. My kids know how it feels to want (or even need) to say more than your vocabulary allows. This makes them uber slow to cast judgment on the bumbling foreigner in front of us at the American grocery store. We’ve been that bumbling foreigner. No one ever told us to speak Chinese or get out though.
5. I love that they are learning to communicate more content in fewer words
They have been trained the hard way to use fewer words, use more hand gestures and explain challenging concepts in simple terms. The ability to be concise is such a valuable skill. I would say more but that would ruin my point.
6. I love that they don’t make fun of people because they are different
Different is more normal than being normal. It’s not that my kids are above thinking that something (or even someone) is weird. They’re kids. However I am seeing in them that even weird is understood as a place where there is something to learn, not a place to mock because they don’t understand.
7. I love that they have been the weird ones
Being stared at has been an average day for us. Being questioned about our ethnicity and the mixed up color palate of our family has been our standard. Sometimes that was really hard. Irritating. Down right frustrating but I love that my kids have felt the sting of standing out in a crowd. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with #6.
8. I love that they are not intimidated by far off places
China may as well have been Mars when I was 11 years old. I tried digging a hole once. There is no place on earth that my kids would not be excited to go. There is also no place that they don’t think they could ever get to. They are explorers in a very literal and realistically expectant sense.
9. I love that they are not intimidated by new
New people. New places. New foods. New adventures. Always exciting. Always scary. Never not worth it.
Boarding passes. Security. Gate. They know the drill and they love the adventure of gift shops, snack stores, play places and luggage carts in-between each step. Every airport is both exactly the same and yet beautifully different.
11. I love that they can look forward to a 14 hour plane ride
Ok this one is much better now that most planes have video-on-demand but still . . . is there another scenario on earth where you can strap a hyperactive five year old boy to a chair for more than 50% of an entire day and he actually enjoys it? If so I have not found it yet.
12. I love that they can process without comparing
My kids are no stranger to paradox. They have learned that most everything is some mix of good and bad, exciting and challenging, fun and boring. However they have naturally learned to do something that I cannot. They process the paradox of individual issues without comparing them. In other words they don’t ask, “which is better, life in China or life in America?” They acknowledge that both are wonderful and tough but it doesn’t make sense to compare the two. They are different.
13. I love that their innocence has been sustained just a little bit longer
There are some things that they have missed growing up in America. I am not sad about all of those.
14. I love that they are not shaped by pop culture
They may have also missed a boy band or two. Again . . . I am not sad.
15. I love that the Evening News makes more sense to them than it ever did to me
I still don’t get it.
They understand so well the value of right now. It doesn’t take them years to make friends because they may not have years. My introvert goes deep with one or two and my extravert goes deep with anyone he can find but neither of them wastes time on the surface.
17. I love that they know how to say goodbye
Goodbyes never get easier. Since that is true I’m thankful that they are developing the skill of doing it well.
18. I love that they pick up where they left off like no time has passed
It may be years between play dates but both of my kids have shown that they know how to jump right back in like it was yesterday. Life long relationships are not contingent on proximity for them.
19. I love that they see two sides and seek to make peace
Ok I haven’t so much seen this in my son just yet but he’s five. My daughter however, often finds herself conflicted because she sees two sides of an argument. Both right. Both wrong. It’s confusing in the fifth grade but a skill that I pray continues to develop.
20. They don’t freak out when something stinks
WAAAAHHHH!!! NAAASSSTY!! That seems like a common (and even fair) kid response when the smell of the public restroom actually burns your nasal passages. My kids may not like it but they’ve been there and done that. They know their options. No need to make a scene.
21. I love the pride they feel about where they’ve been
Appropriately of course. I love it when we see a map or a flag and they get to say, “been there.” I love it when someone says something completely stupid and stereotypical about China and they just grin because they know better. I love doing this part of their adventure with them.
22. I love that they never stop blowing my mind
23. I love that they are MY kids
We fit. We look nothing alike. We drive each other nuts. They embrace with full passion their roles of bossy older sister and bratty little brother. Our home is rarely quiet and never, ever boring.
24. I love that they are unique
There is no catch all TCK stereotype. If there was Disney would make a movie about them. Every TCK is different and unique, including the two at my house.
My five year old son said it best while we were in China. Having flown for two days from the place he now calls home and standing in front of the place he has always known to be home we asked him the unanswerable TCK question . . . ”
Where is home?”
Unprompted, he nailed it.
“Wherever WE are.”
I love it — and I love my TCK’s.