It occurred to me last weekend at the #FIGT conference, that I had never referred to my three sons as TCK’s or third culture kids.* Listening to the varied educators, authors and specialists at the conference, I came to understand why I hadn’t done this. I wanted them to be ‘normal’.
So despite having lived in seven different countries, having had different experiences AND losing their friends every three, four or six years, they were supposed to be like any other kid. What I realized this weekend is the excellent support and care that exists for expat families who live overseas and that there is often a need for this. I’m thankful that for the most part, my three coped fairly well. However, partly what FIGT is concerned with and facilitates, is that for many children and their parents this global life can be challenging, confusing and leave kids without a sense of belonging to any country.
As parents we feel guiltily that they often don’t have a home town to call their own. We worry that they only see extended family during holidays. We fret that they don’t have ownership to any one place, even their home country feels alien to them at times.
And yet as the esteemed Dr. Fanta Aw reminded us during her keynote speech at FGIT… it takes a village to raise a child. And this is precisely what we do as global parents. We pull out all the resources to ensure that our kids have a sense of home in which ever country they’re living in. The parents, teachers, coaches and volunteers, all contribute to raising these kids. We all become their village.
My husband and I created a sense of normality (from a Canadian’s viewpoint) by starting and coaching a baseball league in Oman. There was just no way my boys were not playing ball! With the help of passionate coaches and parents, we had over one hundred kids from all over the world playing. Some of these families also helped with the hockey team, also a first in the stifling heat of Muscat. Our coach, Teppo Virta is still a hero in the eyes of my boys. People started clubs and organizations of every description knowing that when kids grow up globally, it’s even more important that they belong to something that represents their home culture and identity.
As Dr. Aw, reminded us “It’s an intersection of experiences, relationships and friendships that become family. It’s the people that claimed you in good and bad.” And that is what a village does. Be it physical or not, as in the case of many global families, our extended family has helped raise our cherished children. We ask so much of these resilient kids; arriving, living and leaving so many countries. And yet if we all do our part to help raise them, the village is a pretty good place to be.
I’ve just asked one of my three if he’d change anything. “No, look at the experiences and opportunities that I’ve had. Not to mention the friends I have all over the world”. Yes, all part of that village that we’re fortunate indeed to be a part of!
*Note, a TCK is defined as a person who has spent a significant part of his/her development years outside their parents’ culture. As summarized in Linda A. Janssen’s informative book, The Emotionally Resilient Expat published by Summertime Publishing