When I returned to my passport culture a few years back, I was forced to face my webbed closet of pent up prejudices and questions surrounding both my identity and resettlement. Working through our move for several years, combined with being married to a monocultural American, had me thinking that I had most definitely aced that class of knowing who I am as a Third Culture Kid.
Then I found out I was pregnant.
I am quite thankful pregnancy is a long journey of nine months (technically ten!) because I spent most of those months wondering if our children would grow up to love the world or to “just” love their town. Would they inherit my gift of languages or remain monolingual? Would they ever become TCKs themselves or would they, in fact, detest air travel?
I recall at least one painful discussion with my [normally patient] spouse after having received our first American football jersey gift for our son. For me, little newborn boys dressed in sports apparel represented American values I deeply disagreed with: to be the biggest, fastest, greatest. Knowing that so much more was hidden under the iceberg of that innocent jersey, my husband told me that, by the way, he simply wasn’t prepared to withhold our child from watching American football or playing it if he wanted to (oh Lord, no!) just because his mother was a TCK. This was coming from a man who despises American football – but this wasn’t about football. He went on to explain that there was nothing wrong with giving our son exposure to each of our cultures but that our child wouldn’t simply become our clone. If, down the line, our child wanted to take part in a 4th of July parade, papa would let him do so. “What!? Don’t you prefer to promote global family values in our home??” I protested.
As I continued to toss and turn, wondering how on earth I could raise a global-minded child in the middle of America, especially with the realization that we wouldn’t withhold chintzy Americana from our child, I came to realize that I actually still didn’t fully accept certain parts about living here. Somehow, all this time, I had actually been able to live in my comfy foreigner bubble with very little contact to people who live in my town. As my pregnancy progressed, I was forced to wrestle with the tension I felt, because I could think of nothing worse than for me to pass on my own emotional baggage to my child before he even had a chance to speak. Instead of teaching him how to be a cynical, unpatriotic citizen, would it not be so much more beautiful to teach him how to become a global citizen – with the ability to thrive in each of the cultures that make up our family, without exception?
That conversation around baby sports apparel got us thinking about how we would intentionally weave and embrace both of our diverse threads into the intercultural fabric of our child’s world. I came to realize that by shutting out my passport culture altogether, I had deprived myself of real friends and any benefits of living in this country. How did I find that out? Well, as soon as I allowed myself to open up the doors of acceptance, I instantly made lifetime friends in our same life-phase. I also was forced to admit that even if we are only here for a season, it is a great place to be with young kids.
Don’t get me wrong, I still wouldn’t dress my newborn in sports apparel and don’t expect me to have any tears flowing on the 4th of July – but I no longer feel I must guard my children from experiencing these things. Instead of constantly having to fight for which culture is most welcome in our family, we are both committed to intentionally raise our children to embrace all facets of growing up in a multicultural and multilingual home.
Practically speaking, papa will speak English to our child and impart the fun things about his culture: being pulled in a little red wagon, selling lemonade on a street corner, or enjoying great customer service. I will speak my languages to our children, sing nursery rhymes in my language at bilingual mama groups, celebrate national holidays and ethnic foods, and the joys and frustrations of the Third Culture. Together, we have chosen to give our children the gift of living free from our own cultural prejudices and to value what each parent brings to our family, knowing that each facet our children receives will make them passionate lovers of this world. Wait, isn’t that what I wanted in the first place anyway? 🙂
How about you TCK parents? Did you have an identity crisis when you became a parent? How does being a Third Culture Kid change your parenting? What are some specific Third Culture values you have been able to impart to your children? What are some tips you would give new TCK parents like me?
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4 thoughts on “TCK and Pregnant”
I hear ya… and I think you got it right in the end… having TM raise Ayo in American ways totally blends in with the multiculturalism you wanted for him all along. You are starting with the American culture, and he’ll be exposed to all the other places you’ll live in due time.
Although I am technically not third culture, I feel as I am in a way. I was born and raised in Canada to 2nd generation German parents, but our whole lifestyle was very German, and very Christian (sheltered).
We spoke only German at home, ate German food, listened to German radio programs on records, etc. Plus we lived on a secluded mountain for the first 4 years of my life, so I didn’t have a lot of social interaction apart from church once a week. Plus we didn’t have a TV, so I didn’t know much about Canadian or pop culture.
When I finally started school at 5, I was definitely a lot different from the other kids, and I’ve kinda spent a lot of my life since then reflecting on what a weird mix I am.
Then add into that the fact that I’ve lived in Canada, the States (briefly), England, China, and Australia (and have done heaps of traveling to other countries as well)… I am really not sure how Andrew and I would raise kids if we had any.
I would hope that we would use your model of TCK, but who really knows that far down the track.
I think one thing that is for sure is that we’d want to give our children as many passports as possible so they have multiple options when they grow up. That would be a huge gift.
Thanks again for your thoughts,
Thanks for leaving a comment! I have heard transition experts refer to people like you as a TCA, or Third Culture Adult (not to be confused with an ATCK: Adult Third Culture Kid, which is what a TCK is when he or she gets older). You share so many aspects of the Third Culture profile by the very nature of your adulthood traveling and living abroad, that although you may still feel somewhat Canadian, you have the same culture shock when you return to your passport culture. Your German upbringing no doubt had some influence on your love of travel and on the way you want to raise your children. I totally agree that multiculturalism is a real gift although I am starting to think it transcends the number of “passport” level. In many ways, it is a much larger and abstract concept than the number of passports we have. It’s more about a whole lifestyle we must live out ourselves in order to give it.
Appreciate your thoughts too!
Si je m’en réfère à ma propre expérience, j’ai un peu le sentiment que de nombreux futurs parents se posent la question de ce qu’ils aimeraient apporter à leur(s) enfant(s) en termes de culture, de langues, etc.
En ce qui nous concerne Paul et moi, la situation est aussi rigolote : il est né aux Philippines d’un père italien naturalisé américain et d’une mère anglaise, a vécu aux Philippines jusqu’à l’âge de 8 ans puis à Genève. Je suis née, j’ai grandi et je vis encore à Genève de parents suisses-allemand, donc une culture quand même différente de l’endroit où j’ai grandi.
Quand il a fallu “assembler” tout cela au moment de ma première grossesse, ça a donné lieu à des réflexions concernant par exemple le choix du prénom : il fallait que ça matche avec le nom de famille italien, que ça puisse se prononcer facilement en anglais, allemand, français. Aussi (mais avant la grossesse en fait) réflexion concernant le lieu de vie (partir à l’étranger vs rester en Suisse), etc.
Il me semble qu’on donne simplement à nos enfants ce que nous sommes, et qu’ils sont également imprégnés de leur lieu de vie. En tous les cas, me concernant, je suis un beau mélange entre cette culture suisse-allemande et cette culture romande si différente 🙂
Ce billet est vraiment intéressant car il ouvre des pistes de réflexion pour moi, merci 🙂
Merci à toi d’avoir laissé ce commentaire!
On continue à avoir cette conversation concernant LE lieu géographique propice à apprendre non seulement le français (car ce qu’on voudrait donner à Ayo ne se limite pas à l’apprentissage linguistique) mais à aimer la diversité de notre monde. (Je ne pense pas qu’il y ait un seul lieu, ni un lieu idéal.) En attendant, j’ai pris la décision de m’investir à fond là où nous habitons, car on ne peut pas vivre que pour ce qui viendra ou non demain. Et en plus, c’est que du bonheur de vivre quasiment “en famille” avec les frères, leen et les loulous – donc je ne veut pas râter ce qui est juste devant mes yeux.
En ce qui concerne ton arrière plan monoculturel (contrairement au côté multiculturel de Paul par exemple), je dirais que le modèle suisse offre vraiment ce beau bouquet linguistique et culturel – même si tu trouve, je pense, ton identité dans un seul et unique pays. Ca a sûrement influencé, en plus du patrimoine multiculturel de Paul, votre réflexion d’apporter une facette multiculturelle à vos enfants…