Believe you me! This isn't some made-up word so that I can make my sometimes socially awkward kids seem special.
This term describes my children well, along with many of their friends.
However! Many many of my mental wanderings have centered on my children entering into full-on US culture. "Who are they and what will it be like for them?" I wonder.
While Ivy will be 9 months old the first time she sets foot in her passport country and won't look a bit out of place, or probably even act like it (what a sweet baby she is!) Isaac, at 6 years old, and to some extent, Isaiah at nearly 5, are bound to seem strange at times to some of our friends and family. They've now spent long enough living in their Third culture, that it's beginning to gel.
Isaac was 3 before he realized he didn't have black hair like all the other kids in his preschool. Isaiah loves BBQ sauce because we eat it with our chicken wings. They both think chicken-rice is just what you get to eat when you go to the mall. Isaac says, "Libury" "Full-stop" and "Tidy" like his British teacher, but "really" and "million" come out like his Chinese-Malaysian classmates' pronunciation. Ivy's favorite people at church are Filipinas (and she is theirs, I'd wager.) Going to the doctor in a neighboring country doesn't seem weird to them nor does eating sweet potato casserole and Philly Cheese
There are elements of both worlds in their everydays. Sure, they will probably call money "Ringgit" when we get to America, but there's an ever-present element of being an outsider here too:
Scene- Birthday party for a local friend at KFC. We are the only non-Malaysians in attendance. Clown does a magic show and calls each child up for a trick. It's Isaac's turn.
Clown: "Hello boy. What is your name?"
Clown: "Hello, Isaac. Where are you from?"
Clown: (laughing and confused) "No, I mean, where are you from?"
Isaac: (confused because he thought he answered correctly, says nothing)
Local Friends Speaking up for Isaac: "He's from here! He was born in Malaysia!"
Clown: (still confused, carries on with magic trick anyway)
That was the first time I witnessed him encountering his "TCK-ness."
So if it happens to him here, I'm curious to see what it will be like from the American side.
(well, mostly) his passport and Social Security number are unmistakeably American, but is he "from" there?
I try not to let my patriotism get in the way of me marveling at this happening to our kids. I thank God for the sojourning life he's laid out before them. Others, very long ago, have lived like my children are living and it was due to the providence of God and his great love and plan... Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph... all sojourners in lands that weren't their own. I trust that the same God who loved those 4 mentioned above, also loves and cares for my children...no matter how succinctly they can answer where they are from.
But, most of the time I forget that they don't know what I know about the USA.
Most of the time I forget that they don't feel what I feel about the USA.
But then they'll say or do something that brings it front and center.
Scene- All of our children have a backpack for the specific use of being their travel backpacks and carry-ons for trips. On each one, I've sewn flag patches from every country they've been to. Isaac was holding his backpack, looking at the various patches the other day.
Isaac: "Ooo, look Zayah, here's the Malaysia flag."
Isaac: "And here's USA. I've been there."
Isaiah: "Me too."
Isaac: "And here's Thailand."
"I've been there." is his what comes out about the flag of the culture and birthplace of his parents and one that weighs heavily on his life whether he realizes it or not. But in his young mind, he has as many memories of it as he does of Bali and Singapore. He's not dismissing it. He's not elevating other places over it. It's just his experience. And the experience of tons of kids like him.
I know my fellow overseas friends can vouch for this. Its quite something to watch it unfold before your eyes! To hear things come out of their mouths that other folks who have lived abroad have said they would say.
But still. I marvel at it all the same, though I was told it would happen. So I thought all of you should know too. I'd read the Wikipedia link. It's quite helpful.
(mine or someone else's) just know that they might not be able to answer where they come from. But my guess is that where ever you are, where ever you are from, if you get the chance to make a memory with them- or a dozen memories!- they still won't be able to answer where they come from, but at least they will know that where they have been, they've been loved.