We had some visitors with two daughters in tow before Thanksgiving, some friends of relatives, visiting China.
They had been away from home for about 11 months, and the girls had not had other playmates for about a month.
It was amazing how quickly the kids hit it off.
From the first moment on Friday they were fast and furiously coloring, giggling, exchanging gifts, and generally bouncing around.
By bedtime they were excited to have the mega slumber party in their bedroom.
By Sunday they were inseparable.
By Monday they were praying that the train would crash, that the elevator would stop, that the stairs would break so they wouldn’t have to leave on Tuesday morning.
We were all feeling quite melancholy about saying good bye to these wonderful new friends who we all felt like we’d known for years, not quite sure when we’d meet again but somehow knowing we would.
Even now, a week later, I still feel a twinge of sadness.
For me, yes, but more for my kids.
They are learning firsthand the difficult part about living a cross-cultural lifestyle.
On all sides of the oceans, at every airport and train station.
To new and old friends, to grandparents and cousins and neighbors.
While we knew we were saying good bye when we left our hometown, we have moved to a place where our expat friends live equally high-mobility lifestyles.
There is always somebody leaving, coming, traveling away for some months, and then returning.
And we still hear about Mrs. Guernsey and Mrs. Hulbert from preschool days and a particular craft project or playground adventure–wistfully clinging to old memories.
And now, wistful comments about M and K who were just here and when will they see them again.
By hauling our young children overseas where they are growing up in a new culture, they are essentially becoming Third Culture Kids, or TCKs as the lingo goes.
We are doing our best to read and prepare and help them in the lifelong implications of this phenomenon, and one book that is a must-read is Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds by Pollock and Van Reken.
Of course, they have a Mama who is one of those TCKs herself, which is a mixed blessing.
I can relate to feeling like one is straddling two countries and two cultures, never quite fully belonging to either after a while.
It’s a conversation I’m really only beginning to have with my kids, which will continue over the years as they experience more trips back to the US, a greater realization that their view of the world is not necessarily like the majority in either place, and more goodbyes.
One survival skill is to truly enjoy each special moment as it comes, and part without regrets.
I think they did that quite well, don’t you?