A TCK Raising a TCK

Zenia and I at GRU (São Paulo)

Second generation Third Culture Kid. That is what my daughters are. I guess in my mind this was the only way to raise my children. People who had satisfactory childhoods want their children to share in their experiences, to be able to connect at that level. Psychologists will tell you that (unfortunately) those with unsatisfactory childhoods will unconsciously do the same thing. I cannot tell you if my childhood as a TCK/Global Nomad was satisfactory, but I can tell you that I couldn’t help but “bless” my own children with the same experiences.

 Growing up in hotel rooms, in constant flux, and feeling more at home at an airport than a real home are things that I have passed down to my daughters. As a matter of fact, it was the day after Christmas 2016 that my daughter uttered a phrase that made me realize that I had accomplished my “mission”. We were en route from Orlando, USA to Asunción, Paraguay and were switching planes at the São Paulo airport when, on one of those moving walkers she looks in the distance and says, “I feel so much more at home here at this airport than I do anywhere else.”

You’d think I’d be proud. As if a former tennis star just watched his daughter play a perfect 6-0, 6-0 match in her first tournament. Instead I panicked. The phrase that went through my mind was, “What have I done?” I knew that this would be a moment I would have to debrief with myself later.

The Midnight Sun. I woke my daughters to show them and took this picture at 00:05 AM (local time) while flying over northeastern Siberia

Fourteen months later I am sitting in South Korea writing this piece, my first official blog post for this site, and isn’t it interesting that I have picked this topic as the first one I dive in to? Perhaps it has all been weighing heavily on my mind since then. Now my already stretched girls are being stretched even further, living in East Asia and attending an international school here. They are learning a completely new culture, a new language, new foods and… new airports. In the past three months we have flown through Kunming and Shanghai in China, Bangkok, and Seoul.

 Next month we will fly again through Tokyo and then in June we will be in Sydney (Australia), Santiago (Chile), and Asunción again. In August we will be returning to Korea through Lima (Peru) and Barcelona (Spain). Airports. Flights. And my girls know exactly how to navigate it all. They have become professionals at packing, knowing what to take with them and keep the carry-ons as light and maneuverable as possible. They know what foods to try at airports, and are keen hunters of locations that allow them to plug in and recharge their electronic devices. Even my 7-year-old understands the different plugs that are needed for different parts of the world.

Hotels? Lets not even talk about this just yet. That is for another essay. Suffice it to say that they expertly navigate all aspects of hotel life and immediately figure out what to order from room service while making sure to drink lots of water and remain hydrated.

 Yes, the evidence is clear. I have turned them into global nomads. They will never know what it is like to grow up in the same home their entire life, to bond with a tree in the back yard, or to have their heights recorded on the same wall from age 1 to 18. They will never know the same friends, and get all depressed when ONE moves two states or two countries over. They haven’t just blended their parents’ culture with their current home’s culture to create their own Third Culture; no, they have blended their mother’s culture with their father’s three or four cultures along with their new home’s culture to create a stew of at least 7 or 8 cultures.
Ready to board another flight.

I’ve internalized this for a while now, and the result has been a sense of pride. The questions are all always there; what if I break them? What if I do irrevocable damage to their personalities? What if *gasp* they can never settle? After a brief moment of insecurities, the sense I always get is: and what an amazing life they will live, if that is what ends up happening.

I don’t know what the future holds, and what my girls will end up doing with these experiences. What I do know is that (barring death, of course) I will always be there for them. They will always have not just me as an older person to talk to about their struggles and joys, but an entire collective of fellow global nomads and TCKs who are true friends. Because this tribe does take care of its own. Always.

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