TCK means Third Culture Kid. It is the new descriptor for MK or missionary kid. TCK refers to all children who grow up outside of their cultural home. I was a TCK myself growing up. My father was in the Air force and we lived overseas most of my teen years. It is interesting that now that I have been trained as a cross-cultural worker I know understand much of what happened to me as a teen. I never saw the connections at the time but my grades alone tell an interesting story. My sixth grade year we moved East and my grade dropped from A's and B's to C's and D's. Then my seventh and eighth grades report cards showed almost all A's and a couple of B's. My ninth grade year we moved to the West. My grades were almost all D's. Then tenth and eleventh grades saw report cards with almost all A's and a couple of B's again. We moved back to the US my 12th grade year. You guessed it- all C's and a D or two. Clearly I was affected by the moves, by the lifestyle, by the stress. I tell you this because I want to describe my own kids to you. I want you to understand them as I see them. Before I do that I need to tell you one more story about myself. It was not all difficulty and maladjustment for me overseas as a teen.
We arrived in Okinawa, Japan when i was 12 years old. Our plane landed at night and we were whisked off to a hotel off base in Koza City. It was a dream. We were tired and jet lagged and I remember very little of the trip. The next morning we awoke in a strange hotel and went out to see where we were. Those first moments are etched on my brain. I walked out on to the street in a light rain in January. There was strange dissonant music loudly playing, there were people everywhere, the smell of the 'benjo' ditches was sharp. Strange things were hanging in all the shop windows and everyone was speaking a language I could not comprehend. It was electrifying. I was mesmerized. This was fantastic. It was a call. I would never be the same again. I would never look at downtown USA and think, 'this is all there is' again. The world was much bigger than I imagined, than I could possibly conceive and I was very grateful to see even the small piece.
My first born was a girl I here name Luthien. She was born in Texas but she is not from there. She landed in Middle Earth when she was just five. She has been home schooled, cooperative schooled, and now boarding schooled. My second daughter was born in her Grandmother's town in England. Goldberry was just three when we moved to Rohan and four when we went to Gondor. Many people say that kids learn the language and culture quickly. Not always. The second day we were in Rohan we were walking down the street and a group of kids were playing in a field nearby. Our girls said to us, 'We don't want to talk like those kids'. We were surprised. But they refused to learn. They played everyday in the street with 20 different boys and girls and learned very little of the language. Sure, they could say a few things but for the most part they could not converse. One day I sat down with Luthien and told her that we were going to be here for awhile and if she was going to be happy she needed to learn the language. She said, "Nope, I am going to teach them all English!" She didn't succeed but it was interesting watching her try. All the years of her growing up have been very difficult. She was very difficult to teach. She was an extreme introvert with no attention span at all. But slowly, with a lot of work on her mother's part especially, she has changed. We baptized her a few years ago in our home Church in the West. We were not totally convinced she was ready. What was she really thinking? This was always hard to tell with Luthien. Two years ago we ran out of schooling options for her. Home school was not working anymore, Internet school was a disaster for our family- it requires a lot of discipline! So, we sent her off to boarding school three timezones away. We didn't know if she would make it but she blossomed. I am irritated to say that now that I have sent her away my introverted, non conversant daughter is now an extremely interesting person to be with. She reads the Word everyday and makes her decisions based on it. We are really enjoying having the girls home for the summer. This week I took Luthien to the village to see one of our projects. It was a difficult road up over the pass and a long long day the next day as we evaluated the project, met lots of people and government officials and looked over new project possibilities. While we stayed up late one night witnessing to a local official Luthien was proposed to by the wife of our host. She had a young son that she was sure was just right. Luthien didn't think that she would be a very good daughter-in-law in Gondor culture. I am sure she is right. But she did help cook the meal that night and the whole discussion was in the language of Gondor which she supposedly doesn't know very well!
Goldberry is the opposite of Luthien. She is vivacious, fun, and outgoing. We knew she would do well at boarding school but there was something we did not take into account. While Goldberry is much more interactive and aware than Luthien she is also much more emotional. She really struggled this last semester being away from Mom and Dad. She failed algebra and that hurt her emotionally too. One day she told me that she was not good at anything, she was not talented, was not intelligent, was not special. I lost my temper. I told her in no uncertain terms that grades, clever tricks, or physical ability meant nothing in the Kingdom. Love was everything and no one could love others like Goldberry. She is sensitive to others, she includes others, she is a good friend. No, she does not juggle or play soccer well. But she is great in the Kingdom and I am grateful for such a daughter. She wants more than anything- at the moment- to be a cross-cultural worker like Dad and Mom. She wants to tell the world about Jesus.
The boys come next. Elladan was born in England in 1999. He is wiry, strong, and thinks he is a gymnast. The fact that all the furniture in our house is broken is a testamony to this. He is not crazy about school and Arwen is going to home school him this next year to see if she can motivate him better. He stays locked away in our yard too much of the time. The neighborhood boys just throw rocks at the foreigner whenever they see him out. He has a bad attitude about the people of Middle Earth even though it is the only home he knows and would not want to live anywhere else. He loves camping and I try and take him out to the villages when I can. Elrohir was born just two years ago and is a small tank in motion. He is a chunk of a kid with the sweetest attitude you could ever hope to see in a child. He loves to sit and play quietly with Woody and Buzz of Toy Story fame and play for hours. Probably due to the dual language issues he does not speak at all yet. The only thing he can say with any consistency is, "To infinity and beyond!" of course, quoting Buzz.
I guess the purpose of this post is obvious. There are great advantages to raising kids here and there are great challenges. The kids will never be the same as a result of what we have done to them by bringing them here. I think that our Father is going to take them and make them exceptional humans as a result of being here. They don't know their grandparents or extended families at all. They don't like the US and don't feel 'at home' there. The truth is they, like me, will never 'feel' at home anywhere. This might be the best lesson of all. We are taught theologically that this world is not our home. Most people around the world do not understand this. TCK's know it all too well. They understand that they do not belong anywhere in this world and for most of them it drives them to seek somewhere else. A Kingdom not made with hands and ruled by our mighty King. When we get there many of us may have to deal with culture shock. If you do, just look up a TCK, they will proudly welcome you home.