They speak multiple languages,connect easily with someone from a new culture, and take global issues very seriously. They may have more in common with a Chinese student in their European school then they do with peers from their passport country. They also learn at a young age about loss and saying good-bye. They've moved many times and "home" is hard to explain.
They are Third Culture Kids or TCKs as they are commonly called. American sociologist David C. Pollock describes Third Culture Kids with this definition: "A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside of the parents' culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK's life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background. "
I've noticed this TCK phenomenon in my own kids. They think in terms of having two different national anthems, and speaking in two languages. They relate better to kids from other countries living in El Salvador than they do to their own cousins.
I had to smile while we were in the States this summer for the Fourth of July for the first time in years. When the fireworks started my five year old son turned to me and said , "Mommy, this is just like Christmas!" Because he is growing up in Central America my son's cultural association with fireworks is Christmas, not the Fourth of July. It is definitely different from my childhood!
In some ways it seems strange to be raising children who have experiences so different from the ones I experienced. It is strange, but I don't feel sorry for them. In fact I celebrate the richness of their lives. Their lives include picnics at the sites of ancient Mayan ruins, four stamps on their passports by the age of five, and the gift of being effortlessly bilingual. But more important than that, they are living out God's call right there with us. They are learning to walk in faith and experiencing what it means to be a part of God's global Kingdom.
How do you feel about raising TCKs? How has it changed your family? In what ways are your children experiencing life in a different way than you did?