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.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Third Culture Mom at the End of the School Year

photo credit: Lotus Carroll via photopin cc

Being a Missionary Kid (MK) or Third Culture Kid (TCK) is kind of like being a Preacher's Kid (PK).  Long after one stops being a "kid" the experiences and ideas encountered as a child leave a mark.  I'd say, though, that for a TCK the effects are farther reaching and more profound.  (Also MKs can also be PKs.  I'm not a PK but that's another story.) Here's an example of how being an MK still affects me today.

Lenny finished kindergarten a week ago.  It was amazing to me how casually the year ended.  Yes, they had a special school assembly (celebrating his elementary school's 60th "birthday" as chance would have it) and a field day (which was rained out in the afternoon).  He came home with a school t-shirt after the field day (they improvised in the gym).  On the last day of school he brought home a beach ball saying, "I had a ball in kindergarten!"

Lenny was sad to see school end.  He knew that it will start again in the fall but that he will be in a different grade and have a different teacher - across the hall from his old classroom.  He knows that he will be at school all day and eat in the cafeteria.  But he said, "It will just be for the same amount of time."

I didn't understand.  I reminded him about all day school.  "No, the same amount of days.  Then it will be over again."

Ah.  We needed a moment of melancholy to acknowledge the friendships that would be lost and the familiar routines that would change.  I said, "Yes, life it like that.  Every year you will have a new grade and a new teacher and some new friends.  For twelve more years you will start a new grade every fall, finish every spring and after the summer start again. Then, if you go to college there will be lots more changes.  Then when you finish college you will get a job and maybe buy a house and then things will be the same more.  Unless you become a dad and have kids.  Then all the changes will start again."

I may have overdone it.  But he said, "I like that last part."

"Which part?"

"The part about being a dad."

And the discussion was pretty much over.  We were on to what we were going to do after school.

I was more prepared for this non-event transition than I was after the first year that he was in preschool.  That year I felt myself panicking a little and pushing back a profound sadness.  My reason and time have taught me that in a small community in the Midwest transitioning from the school year to summer does bring changes, but FAR fewer than the changes that I dealt with growing up.  Most people stay in the community.  Even if we don't see them regularly there's a good chance we'll run into them at the library or the park or Lenny will encounter them in a class or other activity.  And then there's social media - a boon for introverts like me who really do care about people and want to stay in touch but dread picking up the phone and can't handle a crammed social schedule.

Growing up the end of the school year was a time of profound sadness mixed with eager excitement for me.  I didn't go to the same school for two years in a row until I was in fifth grade.  Even when I stayed for a couple of years in a row at a school for MKs lots of my friends left - either for good or for a year for "home assignment."  So at the end of every year I knew that I wouldn't see some people in the fall.  And I definitely wouldn't see them over the summer since I was about to climb onto an airplane and fly to the city my parents based their ministry out of.  Which also meant that the last few days of school were filled not only with painful partings, but with packing.  Everything that I considered mine had to either be taken home with me, gotten rid of, or put into storage.  But not much could be stored.  Especially if that particular year we were going "stateside."

As an introvert those intense last days of school were also tinged with a certain disappointment.  I'm most comfortable with a few close friendships but teenage years don't exactly encourage one to be satisfied with that type of social interaction.  Being part of the group - being able to join in with cliques and clubs and team sports - hold a pretty high value.  Sitting around for a day or two signing yearbooks is a great way to highlight the fact that one has a social circle that's smaller than seems to be acceptable.

And any relationship that had been difficult - whether with an adult or a peer - was now unlikely to be resolved.  It was much more likely to be left hanging, possibly for the rest of my life.

Much has been written about the importance of helping TCKs find closure in these types of situations.  That's good.  But nothing can change the fact that every time it happens it's emotionally and physically exhausting.  And even the best of intentions can't change the fact that relationships don't fit well into set time frames.  Hopefully today's TCKs benefit from the internet and the ability to stay in touch over long distances and time.  Getting back in touch with many from my past has changed my view of my connection to my past even now.  But when I was growing up I never would have imagined the possibilities.  Letters between the Philippines and the US could take weeks to arrive and phone conversations cost a dollar a minute.  Even with inflation that's too steep for keeping up with school friends!

So this year I approach the end of the year with some anxiety, but I try to be realistic about what the challenges will be.  I hope that we can manage to keep in touch with Lenny's best friend from this year in spite of her family's busy schedule and ours.  I set up activities for Lenny so so that he will have something to do in the afternoon while the baby and I rest.  As the schedule for the weeks fall into place I realize that the summer will be over before we know it.  I'm already dreading the return of short, cold days, cold and flu season and homework.

Yes, the cycle will continue.  But if the end of the year when I was growing up was like skydiving - standing by the open door of an airplane getting ready to jump into the void while hoping my parachute would open - then these transitions are like sledding - crouching on a sled at the top of the hill, anticipating a quick slide to the bottom followed by another long climb up.  There will be some laughter, a few thrills and possibly a harmless tumble.  It's memorable, but much less momentous.  Calmer and much more manageable. 

No comments:

Post a Comment