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Third Culture Kids Checking out Colleges

Quick Link: Third Culture Kids, College, and Culture Shock

I wrote this week at A Life Overseas about observations my kids and I made last summer while on college tours in the upper midwest of the US.

We saw some funny things. And some awesome things. And learned a ton.

Here’s a start:

Girls wear sport shorts, tight and short sport shorts, or pajamas (dressed to impress?).

Minnesotans play a lot of hockey and broomball.

If you grow up in a country with no snow or ice, you don’t know what broomball is (it is okay to ask, get used to asking).

TCKs are the only seniors in a room who have to clarify the question, “Where are you from?” (do you mean where was I born? where my passport says I’m from? where I go to school? where I keep most of my belongings? where I stay every few years in the summer? where my parents pay taxes and will get in-state tuition? where I came from just this morning?).

There are a lot of white people in the Midwest, especially in rural areas (notice, my kids are also white, but they barely realize it. What this means is that the color of a person’s skin tells you very little of their actual history and story. Ask questions, listen, be slow to judge).

Parents and students respond with more excitement to the prospect of a Starbucks on campus (as opposed to all the way across the street) than they do to a $15 YEARLY membership at a club that provides bikes, kayaks, paddle boards, sports equipment, and intramural teams to join. Or than they do to pretty much every other thing mentioned on tour. Starbucks is very important.

Click here to read the rest and to share your own observations: Third Culture Kids, College, and Culture Shock

Tips for the Parents of Third Culture Kids Going on College Tours

So. You’re going to college. Oh wait, you aren’t. Your kid is. Except they aren’t a kid anymore. Oh dear. What on earth is happening to your life?! I mean, when did you get so old? I mean, this is awesome and right and you’re so excited for your kid. Right? Here are just a few suggestions for how to get the most out of your, ahem, their college tours.

Don’t talk to the tour guide. You aren’t cool and your jokes aren’t funny. And, your kid needs to step up. Now’s the time. Back off.

Don’t ask questions on the tour. You aren’t on tour. You are just the driver. And probably the pocketbook.

Tell your child ahead of time that you aren’t going to talk or ask questions. This is their tour. They need to own it and if they want to know something, they can ask.

Follow your student. Let them lead you to where they want to sit, what they want to see.

Enjoy it. Enjoy the long drives, the (possible) overnights in hotels, the dinners or lunches out together. Explore new cities together, listen to good music (by which I mean your music) on the road, or podcasts, or talk about college, or sit in comfortable silence. Enjoy watching your child as they envision themselves on a campus.

Ask insightful questions of your child after the tour.

Make eye contact with your child during the tour, especially at goofy moments, so you can create memories and have some inside jokes to share later. My kids and I shared some laughs about the thrilled ooohs and aaaahs people expressed over on-campus Starbucks and giggles about how people reacted to hearing the word, “Djibouti.” We also used those slight eye glances to communicate things like, “Do you want a handful of Swedish Fish from my pocket to get you through this rather dull presentation?” and, “Yes, please!”

Don’t be a dream crusher. Help your child make wise decisions, but also let them dream. The wide world is before them, they will come up against enough limitations eventually. Don’t be one of those limits, at least not now.

Bring snacks. I had a few packages of, yes, Swedish Fish, in my purse. Mostly for me, but also for my teens. The tours can be long, especially if you’re doing several in a row. (see #7)

Don’t be a paparazzi but do take a few, surreptitious photos, both to remember which campus is which but also for your own sake. These are precious moments and they, like every other moment with your teens ever since they were born is fleeting.

Talk about something other than college with your teen on the drives or over meals. They are tired of people asking.

Read Janneke Jellema’s essay in Finding Home for advice on transitioning to university as a TCK.

Pick up Marilyn Gardner’s book Passages Through Pakistan for your TCK.

Read The Global Nomad’s Guide to University, by Tina L. Quick

What other tips do you have parents of TCKs on college tours?

When Twins are TWINS

First, they were TWINS. Then, they were twins. Now again, they are TWINS.

I have two seniors this year, you guys. Two. Twins. That means 2/3 of my children are launching. I get to play the roles of double the proud mama and double the sad almost empty nester.

There was a time, ages 0-4 or so, when I looked at the two and thought TWINS. Everything was crazy-fun-double. Double diapers, double flu, double stroller, double diaper bag, double breastfeeding (good thing we’re designed with two for that), double naptime, double bedtime kisses, double giggles.

Then, from ages 5-17, it mostly felt like I imagine any other family feels with two kids close in age. They were the same age, so we still had double birthday parties and double parent-teacher meetings where I couldn’t be in both classes at once, and other twin parenting foibles, but for the most part, I didn’t feel that same double whammy of TWINS. I felt the single, massive double whammy of being a mom of two.

But.

Graduation day looms. In significant ways, graduation day has already passed. The twins were recently home for the final break, their last time in Djibouti as ‘children’ living under our roof. But the official graduation day is later, in July.

And now, I’m feeling it again.

TWINS.

Of course, we will feel it when we look at the university bills, although again, that feeling and the financial amount is similar to having two kids close in age.

But when it comes to them moving out, moving on, taking the next big leap…I’m telling you, its TWINS.

At first it was a double hello and a double addition to my life. This time, it is a double goodbye and a double subtraction.

I know, I know, they aren’t disappearing, they will still call and visit (or else!) But still, they are moving out. As they should. As is appropriate and good and I’m so stinkin’ proud of them.

But two at once…

We didn’t ease into this parenting thing and we aren’t easing into the empty nesting thing. And I’m feeling it.

I know we still have one at home, okay? Just to be clear. But back in the days of pregnancy, people said going from two children to three is a shock to the system because the kids outnumber the parents. And the kids outnumber the number of hands of one parent.

No one told me going from three children at home to one would be equally a shock.

People talk a lot about twin pregnancies and twin toddlers and twin temper tantrums. No one told me anything about twin graduation ceremonies. Its almost as if, if you survive the early years in tact and with joy, you can almost forget you have the unique blessing of raising twins.

NOT TRUE.

People say, “Twins, lucky you, one pregnancy and one delivery and two babies.”

Not true.

I am lucky. I’m lucky I get to be the mom to these two kids (plus another!). That’s where I lucked out. I did not luck out on delivery day or during pregnancy.

I was sick enough for two pregnancies, got enough stretch marks for two, went on bedrest for two, and delivered through two distinctly different body orifices. Yes, one was born vaginally and one was born via c-section.

Like I said, we aren’t about doing things the simple way.

People say, “Twins, two for the price of one.”

Not true.

At least not when it comes to university tuition.

People say, “Twins, launching two at a time is a great transition for them.”

Not true.

Okay, maybe true. For them. Maybe, I don’t know. You’ll have to ask them. They aren’t going to the same school and they’ve had to wrangle for our attention while filling out applications at the same time and FAFSA passwords get mixed up and things are confusing.

And anyway, great, if it is great for them. That’s awesome. But its also sad for me, for us. At the same time, yes, it is double the joy. I’m so excited for what is next for our kids. They’re ready. All this mixed emotions. No one told me graduation would feel so much like a swirly for the heart.

Sometimes I’ve wondered if I’m being overly dramatic, if sending kids to university isn’t such a big deal. Then I listened to a podcast and a mom said that when her daughter didn’t respond to texts or phone calls after two days, she and her husband drove to her daughter’s campus and found her to make sure things were okay. This daughter was at a school twenty-five miles away.

I’m sending my kids to schools a 30-hour flight away, 7,670 miles away, give or take. On a continent they have essentially never lived on. Two kids. I don’t think I’m freaking out, this blog post is nothing. Maybe I’ll show you my freak out later, maybe that will remain private. We’ll see how brave I feel later, how vulnerable I want to be.

In any case, I think I’m allowed a period of transition and that period involves sadness and loss.

Times two.

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