A friend of mine who is a teacher sent me the following devotion, written by a foster child. “It relates to many of my students,” he added.
I’m a TCK – “third culture kid” – “Exxon brat” – child of an ex-pat. Although my sister “had it worse,” going to three different schools in two different countries for High School, the three of us grew up moving around. And, I’ll be honest – there are many strengths / benefits I have grown up with as a result…so I’m don’t regret my upbringing (perhaps in that way, we are different from foster children…). I learned a foreign language early on, and am fluent in French even today because of that early education. I’m able to adjust to new surroundings more quickly, and make new friends. I’m perhaps more aware of and more resilient to change (though it can still be hard!) because of my changing circumstances. I followed in my dad’s footsteps, and was an ex-pat myself, moving every 3-4 years during my career, living in different countries and States. I was a foreign exchange student after High School, the willingness to go, I attribute largely to my upbringing. So, there are many “pluses.”
But “Google” TCK / third culture kid, and you’ll learn more about the effects of this experience. I have experienced loss and change at a young age, which I’ve later learned has affected me emotionally when it comes to grief, commitment, and feelings. I’ve done a lot of work to understand and grow from those insights as an adult. So, there are many “minuses” too.
“A third culture kid is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parents’ culture.”
Sociologist Ruth Hill Useem coined the term “Third Culture Kids” after spending a year on two separate occasions in India with her three children, in the early fifties. Initially they used the term “third culture” to refer to the process of learning how to relate to another culture; in time they started to refer to children who accompany their parents into a different culture as “Third Culture Kids.” Useem used the term “Third Culture Kids” because TCKs integrate aspects of their birth culture (the first culture) and the new culture (the second culture), creating a unique “third culture”
I’ll let your searching bring further enlightenment into this experience.
I’ll close with my friend’s devotional.
And then, maybe I’ll go write a friend a letter…
WHERE AM I?
I hate moving. When I was a kid, my family moved every year or two, and the whole time the U-Haul was being loaded it always made me sick. Hugging the toilet sick. I didn’t really get any pleasure out of seeing my new bedroom or exploring a new neighborhood. Mostly I spent the first few days worrying. Wondering if anyone knew where I was. Would I be able to get on the right bus at school? And off at the right stop? I didn’t even know my address – how would the bus driver? Would my grandparents be able to find us for my birthday party? And how would Santa know where we were?
Those nerves could be largely settled by one simple thing – getting mail. Not mail for my parents, mail for ME. Mail meant that someone knew where I meant that someone knew where I was. Mail meant I wasn’t lost. Mail meant I was thought of. And, if I was lucky and it was from my grandparents, it usually included stuff – stickers, toys, activity books, crayons – you get the picture. Foster kids move a lot too – an average of 4 times in 20 months, and among kids who age out of foster care at 18, a third moved more than 8 times while they were in custody. Each move means a new house, new neighborhood, new school. Each move means you lose stuff that matters to you – stuff like pictures and drawings and stories you have written and favorite CD’s. Each move means new rules – new bedtimes, new chores, new ways to fold the towels and make your bed. And, they wonder if anyone knows where they are.
GOD, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand. I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too— your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful— I can’t take it all in! (Psalm 139:1-6)