Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Different Kind of Childhood

Thanks for your prayers! We are back in Addis, about 9 hours on the road, one potty stop. 

I’ll do a post I’ve had drafted as my brain feels incapable of new thought. :)


 It’s interesting to me, to observe Third Culture Kids (TCK’s) who have spent their lives in a  country other than their parent’s passport culture.

Jon and I reminisce about our childhoods, which, in the big picture, were very similar. 

At SLC, we drove through Sodere and I watched the male TCK’s come prepared, hunting monkeys with pellet guns. (The monkeys were surprisingly naughty and intimidating. They would steal food off your plate while eating). I thought about how much my brothers would have loved monkey hunts.

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But Jon, who spent large chunks of his summer in the water, made this interesting observation in the pool.

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Many of the teenage guys were out there and doing cautious, basic dives off the diving board. I asked a mom of older TCK’s and she mentioned that most of her kids have learned to swim at SLC’s (which happen every two years) or at lake Langano (a popular vacation spot for SIM missionaries). 

If this is the long-term life God has for us (and I kind of hope it is and I kind of hope it isn’t), my kids won’t know summers spent at a pool or tubing behind a boat. I had this sad moment but then I realized that though what The Littles learn as normal is very different from what Jon and I had in childhood, they also have a life rich in experiences I never had.

That night, I watched these same young teenage boys learn how to breathe fire (apparently commonplace in Switzerland).

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I pleaded with Jon to refrain from this activity but probably about 40 people learned to breathe fire and that’s not something we do in Indiana. We learn to do flips off diving boards.

I know that to be a TCK is abundant in life experiences and world travels but it also sets up my kiddos to never quite know where they belong. Speaking in sweeping generalities, after meeting many TCK’s and hearing them share, there seems to be a sort of immaturity about things of pop culture but a deep maturity in their walk with God.  

As I watch Little J and Little A resist our next transition and beg for “home”, it’s a chance to (cry, pray) point them to our true home, Heaven.



Nichole said...

I would so much rather have our children mature in faith than in pop culture! Thankful that you arrived safely. Praying that we can all get and keep that focus on our true Home :)

Sarah said...

Wow, wow. This is SUCH a thought-provoking post. Your thoughts are so good. Thanks for sharing and always educating!

Burkina Team said...

Oh yes, I hear your heart on this one. All the kids would "miss" was my biggest challenge in moving to Africa. The C.S. Lewis quote helped me immensely: "Too often we are like children playing in mud puddles when the beauty and immensity of the ocean are just a few feet away." Soccer teams and ballet lessons were the "mud puddles" I wanted when He has something else, something great planned for them that I just can't see.....yet. Glad to know I'm not the only one working through these things.

Carol and Doug said...

This post has made me think so much in the last day about my own experience moving from Southern California to Illinois and raising my own children in small town Midwest as opposed to suburban Los Angeles. I have so often felt a bit of loss that my children will never be able to relate to my upbringing. While it's still the USA, it's definitely a different culture and norms there are not norms here. I grew up, like John, with lots of water, in my case the ocean, and with many, many people having built in pools. I know how to deal with rhythms of the sea; my kids have no clue. I grew up Boogie Boarding; they'll grow up sledding. I graduated from a high school of 1600 with a huge performing arts department (and swimming as a sport, of course); their graduating classes will be about 50. It makes me realize how my mom must have felt raising us there after spending her life in Bluffton to age 16. I don't really have advice or anything like that, just assurance that you are not alone, and though our family isn't on the amazing journey yours is on, any time you move outside your culture you will experience that, to varying degrees. Monkey hunts are a pretty large degree. :-) A friend of mine in the mission field in China told me once that when you leave your culture for another and are gone more than... a year? can't remember. Anyway, you never really become at home anywhere. You become sort of bi-cultural, and even in your own home will feel some disconnect. I really believe that's true, and as you embrace this new culture with your children, I know that you will also be able to embrace being bi-cultural and all the positives along with the slight tugs of wistfulness at how different things are.

Amber Steffen said...

OK so I'm playing catch up reading your blog, but I'm so touched by this. Thanks for sharing this. Very thoughtful and honest. I like that.

Praying for you guys often... I use your little business card as a bookmark :) Keep up the communications! These are terrific to stay in touch.