I gave birth to our second baby five days ago, so I am still in a bit of a postpartum fog as I ponder and write this. But, these thoughts have been rattling around in my head lately and I have learned that it is best to get them out of my mind and onto virtual paper while they are fresh. So, bear with me and my baby brain.
Staring at my newborn baby girl, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of wanting “the best” for my children. I think that every good parent has this desire. But what exactly is “the best?”
A mom living overseas said, “It’s hard knowing that if we just moved back to the United States, my kids would have access to the best: the best schools, great opportunities, clean parks, libraries, a safe environment.” Where this family lives, the education is sub-par, it is unsafe for their children to play outside unsupervised, and there are very few (if any) children’s activities available. It can be easy for families in these situations to feel guilty for depriving their children of “the best.”
I write and teach about the common issues that children who have grown up overseas face and how parents can prevent these issues from becoming debilitating in adulthood. When teaching on this topic, I often begin by presenting the statistics on many of these issues to show how prevalent they are in adult TCKs. It was at this point during a lecture at an Oregon university that one student asked, “So why would any good parent do this to their child?” I replied, “I would do this to my children.”
I grew up as a TCK and it was a challenging life. It made it harder that it wasn’t my choice. I was a missionary kid whether I liked it or not. However, if I had to go back and do it over, I would sign up willingly for that globally mobile lifestyle. For me, it was absolutely “the best.” Because of that, I would also willingly sign up my own children to live the life of a TCK. I know that it would come with many tears and long nights wondering “is this worth it?” And I would remind myself that despite its challenges, being a TCK really is “the best”.
But, there is a flip side to this. As I stared at my new baby and thought about the life I want her and her sister to have, an anxiety-inducing thought came to mind. What if my children aren’t TCKs? My husband and I have always talked about living overseas at some point, but what if that doesn’t happen? I had subconsciously equated raising our kids as TCKs to giving them “the best.” But, what if that isn’t what God has for us? What if our family is called to live in the United States for all of our child-rearing years? I spend so much time talking with parents about the amazing benefits of being a TCK and why that lifestyle, despite its challenges, really is “the best.” But, is it? Can one lifestyle really be called “the best?”
As I watch my two girls and think about our future as a family, I have had two revelations.
Home environment makes all the difference. Children who grow up overseas can have an incredibly enriching childhood and children who grow up in their passport country can also be global citizens and lovers of the world. It is ultimately how we choose to run our home and raise our children that determines this. Children can have access to “the best” opportunities and still not thrive if the home environment isn’t healthy. They can also live the life of a TCK and not reap the amazing benefits for the same reasons.
God’s plan is truly “the best.” I like to think that I know what is best for my girls, but the truth is, I don’t. Yes, I would love for them to live overseas and experience the wonderful complexity of the TCK life, but if that isn’t what God has for them, then it is because that is not “the best” for them, or us as a family. I’m realizing that part of being a parent who chooses to follow the Lord’s leading, is also being willing to follow when His leading isn’t taking us in a direction that I would have chosen.
It can be easy to wonder if your life overseas is what is best for your children. After all, being a TCK clearly comes with a significant number of challenges. But if you believe that God has called you there, than you must believe that he has also called your children to that life - making it “the best” for not only you, but them as well.