Sorry kids, it’s not your best life

Sorry kids, it’s not your best life

A common caption for pictures on my Instagram feed is something along the lines of “she’s living her best life” accompanied by an adorable shot of a toddler cuddling her puppy or a little boy with an infectious grin covered head to toe in mud.

(NOT our dog)

Sometimes I can just smile at the cuteness, but other times I get a churning in my gut – a mix of envy, guilt and the ever lurking fear that the choices we’ve made for how we live our lives will somehow ruin our children.

If I was creating the perfect childhood for my kids, it would involve living close to family and having a clean, safe outside space to play in. There would be lots of opportunities to try out different sports and instruments and activities, and school would be fun. They’d have access to services when they were struggling with speech or reading, and a gaggle of neighborhood friends to shoot hoops with in the driveway. The air they were breathing would be clean and they wouldn’t catch salmonella from playing at the beach (or taking a shower – jury is still out on where that nasty bug came from.)

enjoying the green grass of Arizona!

Everyone tells you about the benefits of raising children overseas, and I love that my kids are growing up multilingual. I love that they are exposed to different cultures and the close bonds they have with one another because of our “never quite fitting in anywhere” lifestyle.

I don’t love when my kid comes home crying because some girls filled her desk and backpack and books with glitter… because she won her class math competition and they have to bring her down a notch because she’s a foreigner.

Are my kids “living their best life?” I can confidently answer that with a resounding no. Don’t get me wrong. They are happy. They have friends, they enjoy the activities they are involved in, they are doing well in school. But looking at it from a physical, emotional or psychological perspective, no, it’s not their best life. And yes, I often feel sad and sometimes guilty for this. We knew we would be making sacrifices on our kids’ behalf when we chose this life, but that doesn’t make it any easier when your children are bawling their eyes out because they miss their family or because apparently white people are ugly.

But all this begs the question: is that our primary responsibility as parents? To give our kids their best life?

When our kids were younger and they’d pine for life in America after a fun summer there, we could easily remind them that summertime anywhere is more fun. But as they are getting older, the reality of what they are missing out on is becoming clearer to them. So we let them talk about it. We grieve with them the loss of the life they think they’d enjoy having.

And then we try to teach them why we sacrifice so much. And ultimately it comes down to obedience. We felt like God called us to this life, and so we obeyed. It’s not always easy, it’s not always fun, it’s not always comfortable. My hope is that this is a truth we can pass on to our kids… that striving for our best life is less about the perfect environment and endless opportunities and comfortable relationships and more about just being obedient

It doesn’t mean I don’t ache with and for them when they are struggling because of this choice that we’ve made. The feelings of guilt are very real. But I have to believe that our obedience will bring blessing… even if that blessing doesn’t come in the form of the puppy my middle child desperately wants to have.

A child’s culture shock

A child’s culture shock

There’s no question that reverse culture shock is a real thing.  We experienced it in the minutes we got off the plane in Denver and were overwhelmed with how friendly people were – talking, smiling, asking questions… it felt weird and suspicious and strangely annoying.  Because we are aware of the phenomenon of feeling a bit out of place in our home culture, we are able to talk through and laugh about it when we feel so rushed because the waitress brings us our check before we’ve even finished eating or I how I felt strangely claustrophobic the first time I got behind the wheel and drove a car.

But our girls don’t get it.  They just know things are different and strange.  They don’t have the ability to process the experience the way we do, and to make things even harder, Lebanon is their normal.  Caleb and I are coming back to the place we have spent most of our lives, but for them it is the complete opposite.  This is Ruby’s first time in the States and Isla has spent a total of about 4 months of her entire life in America.

Sometimes the things they notice are funny.  Isla heard a neighbor’s garage door open and thought it was a bear.  She wonders why all the houses here are “so small” because they aren’t nearly as tall as our building in Beirut.  They both are soooo sick of driving in the car – Ruby actually grabs onto the side of the car door to try to keep herself out of the carseat.

Isla hated her first church service because she didn’t know any of the songs because they were in English.  She was upset about the second church we visited because she went straight to Sunday School and missed the songs in ‘big church.’  She meets new friends and then is crushed when my answer to when we will see them again is “maybe when you are six.”

Life as a TCK is full of loss, and even though we are only here for a summer, we can tell Isla especially is feeling that, though she can’t quite process and verbalize it.  She did tell us yesterday that she really wanted to go home to our house in Lebanon.  She misses her Rapunzel dress, her princess hair and her friends from school.

We’re trying to talk through things a lot to help her process.  She is having loads of fun, but at the same time, we can really see her struggling with the adjustments this time around.

One of the untalked about benefits of life as a TCK…. when you go to about the lamest parade ever, it’s still super exciting because until about 10 minutes before it started, you didn’t even know what a parade was!!!

(and for the record, we had lots of fun with our friends… even though the parade was a bit cheesy! :))

For Sale

For Sale

Buying things second hand is rare here in Beirut.  I suspect it’s cultural, but I haven’t quite figured it all out, so that’s for another post.  When we moved into our apartment, we had to completely furnish it from scratch.  And furniture is expensive.  So is baby gear.  And appliances, and toys, and… and….

A few months ago, I got an email from a friend of a friend who was leaving Lebanon and selling all of her stuff.  She had some Ikea bookshelves that I’ve been absolutely drooling over (no Ikea in Lebanon, unfortunately!), and for a really good price.  So I called Caleb then immediately sent her an email saying I was interested.  But they had already sold.  Less than an hour after she had sent out her list, she had sold nearly everything.  So there is definitely a market for second-hand things here in Beirut.

Without a Goodwill and with a Craigslist that has a total of three things on it, we needed a place to buy and sell our used baby gear, furniture and other random things.  So another mama and I started a Mommy Classifieds Beirut page on facebook.  It’s off to a great start!  Lots has been bought, lots has been sold.

If you are in Beirut and looking for a stroller, a carseat or even a used car… check it out!

An open letter

An open letter

Dear friends, acquaintances and random strangers,

I am really trying to adapt to the culture here.  Which means, when you didn’t know I was pregnant and told me I was fat, I tried my hardest to just smile.  And when you asked me why I still had a belly when my baby was “already three months old,” I tried my hardest to respond graciously.

When you give me (wrong) advice about how I’m raising my children, I’ve stopped defending myself, I’ve stopped trying to educate you.  Instead I just nod and smile and say “thank you” even though I know I am not going to put hard liquor on my baby’s gums to help her teething pain.

I think I’m making good progress.

But.  When you tell me – in front of my children – that one of my girls is more beautiful than the other, well, don’t be surprised when I argue, when I loudly defend their unique beauty, and when I tell you that you are wrong and shame on you for saying such a thing.  Honestly, I don’t care how culturally inappropriate it is for me to disagree loudly with you about this.  Okay fine, gossip with your friends about which of my girls you think is prettier, smarter, nicer, whatever.  But shame on you for telling me what you think.  And an even bigger shame on you for telling my children what you think.

I will not take it.  Consider this fair warning.


Mama to TWO amazing girls