“No Aama! I can’t go in there! I’m naked!”
“Sweetie you aren’t naked. You’re wearing a dress. Kids in America usually don’t wear pants under dresses. Everyone in the restaurant will know that because they’ve lived in America for a few years now. It’s okay.”
“No! I’m staying in my carseat. I won’t go in naked!”
Our family was visiting the USA for a few months and our four year old daughter missed South Asian food terribly. Near the house we were staying in, we found a restaurant where most of the employees were from South Asian countries. Our daughter was thrilled and wanted to drive there immediately. She had been wearing a dress the entire day without a second thought, but as soon as we reached the restaurant, she refused to go inside and be culturally “naked.”
During our time in South Asia we never said to our daughter, “You must always wear pants under your dresses.” It’s something she observed during her first few years of life so it felt natural. Most of my friends in South Asia and their children wore long shirts with pants underneath because it is traditional dress. Even when I wore western clothes, I usually wore longer shirts. At first it was out of respect for the local culture, but then it became my own comfortable habit.
After a few minutes of trying to talk her out of the carseat, it became clear she wasn’t going to budge. My husband went in to order take out and explained the situation to the restaurant’s host in our South Asian language. It turned out most of the employees were from the same city where we worked in Asia. Charmed by our daughter’s ability to speak their language and desire to dress according to their cultural preferences, they packed her favorite foods and personally took them out to her carseat. We left the restaurant having made new friends.
Once again, we were reminded that while our daughter looked like many other children in her passport country, her way of thinking was a mixture of South Asian culture and her parent’s American culture. It still is.
Her life as a TCK provides unique blessings that help her understand what it means to operate well in today’s changing world. However, there are also challenges not easily understood by those who are not experiencing life in the same way our family is. As globalization increases, many children are growing up with life perspectives similar to our daughter’s, whether their parents work in business, the military, ministry careers, or other professions that take them around the world.
Because I am raising a TCK, I want to share some of my family’s experiences in learning how to love our daughter well through new stages of life. So far, as with most other parents, we’ve had our share of mistakes and good ideas. I hope to provide encouragement for families who are also raising TCKs and to promote understanding of common TCK life experiences. Look for more in the coming weeks.
Thanks for reading!
©2019 Chrissy Winslow – All Rights Reserved
What is a TCK?
“A TCK is an individual who, having spent a significant part of the developmental years in a culture other than that of their parents, develops a sense of relationship to both. These children of business executives, soldiers and sailors, diplomats, and missionaries who live abroad, become “culture-blended” persons who often contribute in unique and creative ways to society as a whole.”
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