Just so you know

All right. I have ideas. I think about stuff. So here is the spot for stuff I'm thinking about and want to be able to share more broadly and possibly promote. Like I have time for this.

Everything is provisional at this point and subject to change in the future - as far as the blog is concerned. In real life some things will remain unchanged.

Also, our children are not really named Lenny and Linus. We are not that cool.

Feel free to share, rant, disagree, but please remember that I'm an actual person who tries to be respectful. I'd love it if you are and do to.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Some questions people ask when they find out I'm an MK (and the excruciatingly honest answers) Part 1

I don't want to write about this.  I avoid thinking about it as much as I can.  But after I wrote a post about being a TCK one of my parent's coworkers sent me a friend request on Facebook and said some kind words about my blog.  Then I was talking to my dad and he mentioned that she has a blog.  So I checked it out. I read what she had to say about her kids growing up as TCKs.  I thought about other friends my age who have taken their families to another country for the purpose of advancing the kingdom.  Mostly, like I usually do (which is why I don't like to think about it) I got a little weepy and a little PTSD-ish.  To try to distract myself from the raw emotion I started mentally composing this blog entry.  As a form of distraction it has so far failed miserably.

The most common question people ask me when they find out that I grew up in another country is:  Did you like it?  And the excruciatingly honest answer is no.  I did not.

Up front I usually blame boarding school which was not a good fit for me.  If the person I'm talking to is not familiar with the Evangelical missions scene I try to give a brief description of the excellent care I got in "family style" dorms and the excellent education I got at a school for Missionary kids.  I'm not trying to run anybody down.  It was just extremely difficult for me to be separated from my parents.  And being cared for by people who did not hold you as a newborn, watch you take your first steps and who will most likely not be at your college graduation or wedding can cause problems.  Lets just call it difficulty communicating - lack of a bond that might otherwise naturally exist.

But thanks to the work of other MKs (Ruth Van Reken is a good example) this type of living situation is much less common these days.  So when I read about my friends taking their kids across borders to that issue is not what tugs at my heart.  The parts of not liking being an MK that I rarely talk about are parts that MKs today still deal with, as far as I can tell. Leaving all the time.  Not growing up near extended family.  The anxiety of making new friends - or the loneliness of not figuring out how.  The discomfort of living someplace hot and crowded and dirty where stepping outside the front door always immediately reminds you that you are not like the people around you.  The strangeness of returning to a place your supposed to be from and not knowing the people or understanding their lives.

It probably sounds shallow.  Especially in light of the fact that the reason we were there was to share the most important message that could possibly be spoken with people who desperately needed to hear it.  But that's the truth.  And the importance of the life was not a comfort to my childhood self.  It was a burden.  I did not choose the sacrifices that made me unhappy.  But asking for them to be removed meant asking my parents to give up a calling from God.  If they made changes that could have made my life easier they would have to sell short their desire to obey the final command that Jesus gave during His time on earth.  So being unhappy felt like being selfish.

I've talked a little about this with parents who are becoming missionaries, but they usually don't say much.  I think that they are thinking "We will do it differently.  We will do better.  Our children are different.  They will be happy.  We've read the books.  We have a plan."

I hope so.  I hope it works.  The intensity of the writing and attention focused on MKs today is probably good.  But it also tells me that this is still a stressful life for children as well as parents.  It's a reality that isn't going to change.  Moving is a stressful life event.  Moving to another country - moving back and forth between countries - is even more stressful.

Another argument that I've heard and that I still make inside my head is that there were benefits to that life that few others have.  The breadth of experience and insight, the relationships that run deep.  The lifelong appreciation of hot running water.  These are not lightly gained and are parts of myself that I would not want to lose.  Please don' t get me wrong.  Some things about the Philippines I love.  I have fond memories both specific and general of my life there.  My life today is richer because of my experiences growing up.

In our discussions when I was growing up and as an adult we also talked about the fact that any choice a parent makes has implications for their children.  Parents who stay close to extended family and work at more conventional jobs may find that their children feel bored and trapped and long for adventure.  And certainly there's a lot being said these days about the dangers of making our whole lives about our kids - the unrealistic ideas this gives them about their relationship with the world. 

But the bottom line for me is that it's an extreme lifestyle choice.  Who knows if I would have been happier if my parents had made a more conventional choice.  Certainly I would not have been happier if I had spent my life knowing that I was the reason they could not do what seemed most important to them.  But I guess that's the question that still lingers in my mind:  Was I less important than those they went to reach?  Was my (possibly fleeting) happiness sacrificed for their (opportunity of) eternal salvation?  Are other children in a similar position?  Can this be changed?

  Other questions:  Did/do you want to be a missionary?  Why would someone do that?  I've probably touched on these.  Hopefully I can cover them in more depth in another post.


  1. Ah, there is just so much here I can relate to...there are many things I appreciate about being an MK, many life lessons I hope to pass on to my own children. However, there are equally as many things I disliked about those years, some that I'm still dealing with as an adult. Our recent move (well, it's acutally been 2 years now..) brought out a little bit of that weepy/PTSD reaction in me as well. And I felt so frustrated that at nearly 35 years old, I still have trouble making friends. So, it was so good to read this and be reminded that I'm not alone in these TCK issues. :) And I'm still learning how to see His bigger picture in all of this - it's all part of the work-in-progress in me.

    1. It's so good to know we are not alone. Moving, even packing for vacation is still stressful for me. And yeah, even while staying in the same community relationships can be so fluid these days. Having to start over completely would be tough. I'm glad you are finding peace along the way.