Vacationing with a TCK

Every month we send out a picture of the month update.  Our August update about our vacation got a lot of responses from friends of ours who also live overseas and are raising Third Culture Kids.  I thought I’d share it here too, as it’s a better forum to dialogue and share ideas (though most of the conversation around my blog posts happens over on facebook :))


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Lazy days on the beach, hours in the playhouse, riding horses, chasing dogs, books with grandparents and laughing with cousins.  Our time in the States was exactly what we needed.  We were able to put aside worries about finances, security, and the stress of every day life and just enjoy.  We returned to Beirut last week feeling rested and rejuvenated.  We were exhausted of course from the flights and the jet lag, but our souls felt so fresh and ready for another year of ministry in Beirut.

We played the part of the hermit really well on this trip.  One of the big reasons we decided to only spend time with our families this month was for our kids’ sake.  Our girls (and Luka eventually) are classic third culture kids (TCK).  They are being raised in a country different from where their passport says they are from, and they’ve never spent more than a few months at a time in that passport country.  They think they are Lebanese, but they don’t truly fit in, but they don’t fit in in the States either.

One characteristic of TCKs is they way they make friends and build relationships.  I’ve heard it illustrated well by thinking of a swimming pool.  Typically, when you meet someone new, you hang out in the shallow end.  You may be there for weeks or months, maybe venturing into the deep end for a brief moment before heading back to shallow waters.  After trust has been built, you might spend more and more time in the deep end with your new friend, but it takes time to get there.

That’s not the case for TCKs.  They intuitively know that time is short, so they jump right in deep end.  That can be awkward for people from one culture, but when TCKs get together it’s the most natural thing in the world to do.  It’s how they relate.

What does this have to do with our summer vacation?  Our girls go deep quickly.  A visit to a friend’s house results in a new best friend that they just can’t imagine their lives without. And as we drive away, the question inevitably gets asked, “when can we play with her again?”  The answer “in two years” or “when you are six” results in tears and a huge sense of loss for our tenderhearted children.

Loss is a part of life, we know, and our kids will need to learn to navigate it.  When we are back in the US next summer for Home Assignment, they are going to gain and lose a lot of new friends. But we decided that for this vacation, we were going to limit that for them.  So we sequestered ourselves with our families, letting the girls really go deep with people that they could wake up and see again and again.  Of course it was hard when we left.  Isla bawled her way through security lines in multiple airports and Ruby whined her way halfway across the Atlantic Ocean. But they know that we’ll skype soon, family will come visit, and we’ll be back to see everyone “after Ruby turns 4.”  :)

We are so grateful to you all for understanding, for the way you cared so well for us from afar while we were visiting and for your continued prayers and support!

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