I’m Close to My Family
For as long as I can remember, my mother has been my best friend. I might have not always called her that, but she has always been the one who knew me best, who loved me enough to tell me when I was wrong, who took joy in the things I delighted in. She has always shared her struggles with me and I with her.
She has been my constant.
And as I’ve grown up I’ve realized that I am extremely blessed. Not everyone has such a close relationship with their family.
I owe this relationship in part to my Third Culture Kid upbringing. I have always felt like I haven’t had close friends my age… I have always had one or two, but then I would move schools, and we would stop talking. Finding friends was hard in a country that didn’t always adopt me, and foreign friends would come and go.
But Family didn’t. Family was always there.
I would fly across the ocean and visit a country others called my “home.” I would see thousands of faces, travel, and eat food that I didn’t always get where I lived.
I don’t know what I would have done without my family. They were my anchor. Family was the one thing I could run back to and find the way I left it.
I am not the only TCK who has felt like this. Actually, when asked where home is to them, many TCKs reply with the word “family.”
TCKs & Childhood Development
In the book Third Culture Kids by David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken, they talk about Barbara H. Knuckles’ model of the way all children grow up and form their identity. This model outlines three anchors, Family, Community, and Place, all of which mirror the child’s upbringing.
Family teaches the child the ways of life, and gives them confidence, and loves them. They show the child how to interact with the community.
Community shows the child how life functions, how people relate to each other, how people of different socio-economic standings relate in the culture. Community is constant in that it has a culture, it moves and interacts with the child and reaffirms what the family is teaching at home.
Place is constant and has history and characteristics that influence the child and are the “stage” on which all of life happens. The child learns to navigate life in that particular place.
These three things are also mirrors because they not only hold down the “tent” of childhood so the child learns how to do life, but they reflect things back on the child that the child then takes as a part of their identity:
The child of a poor man is treated as less important by the community. The child then learns that he is less important than others. The idea is “reflected” upon the child.
A mother gives her child attention and lets them choose what to have for dinner, and talks with them about their day. The child then learns that he can choose and he has something valuable to say.
Place gives the child a sense of belonging and pride. They learn of the history and know the smells and the roads. They learn that they belong.
Why Family Is Invaluable
And so for the TCK, every time they move, a family is the only anchor that remains constant. While the community and place around the child change and reflect different messages back upon the child, family is the one thing that reflects constant messages. And so the TCK goes to their family for the answers to questions such as “Who am I?” and “Do I matter?”.
It’s quite saddening that in this post-modern world the family unit is being disregarded. It is vitally important for every child, even more so for the TCK. This is why the TCK upbringing can have such a horrible effect on someone if the family unit was dysfunctional in any way. The child has no constant.
Being close to your family is beautiful. These relationships have become the most important thing in my life. I know them better than anyone. When I love my family members, I learn to listen, to value others.
Not only that, but I have gained a life-long friend in my mother. She won’t fade away when I move schools or houses. Even when death separates us, it will be momentarily. It will hurt, but it will hurt because of the deep and amazing love we have for each other.
Dear TCK, if you feel like even your family hasn’t been constant, the first thing I would say is that I’m truly sorry. The second thing I’d say would be that you can still initiate, however awkward, conversations about things you are feeling and struggling with.
The third would be, go to the Father and Brother you have in God. He is more constant than any family member ever could be. He understands the hardships of the TCK life better than you do and knows you intimately.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139: 3-6)
He loves you and knows you and cares for you. Run to Him when you feel as if all is changing or you feel alone. He is the best kind of family.