Dear Parents Launching Your Third Culture Kids
Hey you, yes you, the one who just relinquished your child’s passport into their own hands to carry for the rest of their life all by themselves.
Yes you, the one who wonders how your child will introduce herself on campus. Is she from Minnesota? Africa? Kenya (which as everyone in Minnesota knows is the same thing as Africa)? Djibouti (what’s a Djibouti?)?
Yes you, who calls this move to his passport country an international move to a new, exotic, and slightly scary country.
You who has to not only turn around and walk out of their dorm room but who has to step onto an airplane in the international terminal.
You who will not be nearby, not even continentally (yes, that’s a word, I just made it up) nearby, on Family Weekend or on Thanksgiving or over Christmas break.
You who watched other kids move in with boxes of winter boots and hats and gloves and big, puffy coats, while your kids don’t own any of those items yet because they aren’t for sale in July in Minnesota and the winter gear they last owned (age two) won’t fit anymore.
I see you. Stumbling back to the car, wishing eyes came with windshield wipers so you could drive safely through tears, crying in the bathroom at the gas station or the airport or the borrowed house. You who aren’t even ‘home’ yet to cry into your own bed, or who are is crying alone because your spouse wasn’t able to make the international flight with you, or who is left to numb your sorrow with, I’m so sorry, airplane food and jet lag.
This is hard.
This is really, really hard.
You feel alone. You look at the other parents, the ones who live in the same city or the same state or the same country and you are jealous or angry or feeling protective. You think no one understands all the questions and losses and griefs and fears racing through your mind and heart. You’re confused because no one told you raising TCKs would end up here, would end up with you on the other side of the ocean finally appreciating what you’ve put your own parents through all these years abroad. No one told you this would be harder than moving abroad in the first place.
Or maybe they did, but when you heard it, perhaps at an orientation meeting, your only thought was, “This kid? University? Don’t they have to be potty-trained for that?!” And so, in the stupor of breastfeeding and surprise positive pregnancy tests and figuring out schooling options for kindergarten and worrying through vaccination records in multiple languages and multiple countries’ schedules, you didn’t listen. I know I didn’t. And now, here I am.
Let’s talk about it.
It is so right and appropriate and you’ve raised them for this, to be competent, generous, brave, tender, loving, creative gifts to the world.
You’re excited for them and for this new adventure. So much of life as expatriates has been an adventure into the unknown or into places that have stretched us outside our comfort zone. But you’ve done that together, with this kid by your side. Now they have to navigate it alone and you have to navigate this new stage without this particular child, without their take on experiences, their sense of humor, their insight.
You have a lot of questions about how to parent adult children and how to parent from a long distance.
I don’t have any answers, I’m winging it now. I’ve been winging it since they were born, like all parents, with the added twins times two thing happening. But maybe we can help each other.
What questions do you face now or did face when you sent your kids to university and returned to living abroad?
What hurts the most in this season?
What makes you the most proud in this season?
What wisdom have you earned through experience and time and perspective?
What do you wish your parents had done differently when you went to university? What did they do well?