Saturday, August 4, 2012

TCKs and the Olympics

If you've never heard of "TCK" before, you're not alone. Most people haven't! It stands for "Third Culture Kid" and refers to children who spend significant growing-up years in a country other than their parents' passport country. My own children are different from many TCKs, as we were never in a single foreign country for more than 2 years, and we didn't go in the normal capacity of military, NGO work, or missions. But I'd still consider them 'third culture kids' because they've spent 40-60% of their lives overseas.

Enough of definitions.

The Olympics began a full week ago, but my kids and I only got to see our first footage of it a few days ago. We don't get TV at home, but discovered that one of our nearby libraries had a TV turned on with NBC showing Olympic competitions. The first game we saw was women's water polo, USA vs. Spain. The kids caught my enthusiasm: as I cheered for our team's goals and defenses, they started cheering too.

And then Naomi said something that startled me. "People in Spain are watching this game, too, aren't they Mom?" It wasn't an earth-shattering observation, but nonetheless it reminded me that Naomi's world has been expanded. She can cheer for the USA, while still understanding that we're not the center of the universe. She knows there are people in other countries, rooting for their own Olympic teams.

We enjoyed part of a women's volleyball game next, USA vs. China. I don't know much about volleyball, but I tried to teach the kids something, and once again, we were all cheering every time the US got a point. There was a time when the US had pulled a number of points ahead of China, and Josiah said (with sympathy, not gloating), "I bet the people in China are feeling kind of sad now." Another reminder of the value that comes from dwelling among another people. I almost teared up to think that Josiah would care what another nationality was feeling.

And finally, as we watched a women's 8 rowing race yesterday, featuring many close-ups of the USA crew, Naomi said in frustration, "Why are they only showing the American team? I want to see the other teams too!"

We are Americans, proud of our country and teams. But we're citizens of the world, and we cheer for Great Britain, Jordan and Nigeria too. We love to see excellence in others and we strive to feel their pain when they suffer. Thank you, children, for being TCKs and for having hearts that beat for the rest of the world...


James Mitchener said...

Excellent post. It would appear your kids and I have something substantial in common. I, too, grew up outside of my parent's passport country. I also wasn't in a military family, nor were we missionaries of any sort. It was strict expat life based on my father's extreme knowledge of the waste industry. I also never spent much more than 2 years anywhere, except America where I now reside, which is certainly not my birth country nor my parents passport country (well it is now, we all naturalized for dual citizenship last October).

Reading this makes me wonder if your kids are like I was then, clinging to the heritage of my parents because it just felt right at the time, but then as I got older, developing a sense of global-nationality that ended up producing a substantial resistance to any solid culture or community that wasn't one of the world, or at least had qualities of varying cultures. Regardless, the world is always better off when given intelligent, caring, and globally minded thinkers, and your kids certainly seem to possess all these qualities already.

Thank you so much for sharing. I loved it.

James R. Mitchener

Lisa Gertz said...

Thank you, James, for reading and commenting. My words are not nearly as eloquent as yours, but I appreciate your kindness. Yes, my children sound like they've had similar experiences to yours. I look forward to reading more of your own blog (only read one entry so far, and it was *amazing* -- I resonated with it so much!)... Thanks again!

Mrs. G said...

You know I'm a TCK, too, and I've always thought how neat it would be for my children to live overseas for a time, although I don't see that likelihood in our future. I love that you children are aware of the world in which they live and that the U.S. shouldn't be the center of everything. I think they will have more empathy for others because of their experiences living in other countries.