To summarize the past 4 months of my life, a picture is worth a thousand words:
And nor is straddling two (or more) cultures with 4 young children who ask questions I cannot answer or can only be answered by another question.
Such as the ostensibly simple question, “Mama, when are we going home?
Easy answer: “Soon.”
Medium complexity answer, but more truthful: “After we visit Grammy and grandpa for 2 weeks, and go to Oklahoma for 2 weeks, and drive to Ohio for 3 weeks, and stay with Camryn and Brooke for 5 weeks, then we will fly to California and from THERE go back to China.”
Most complicated reply: “Do you mean home at Grammy and Grandpa, or home in Akron, or home at Oma’s, or home in China?”
I think if we were two adults living this life by ourselves, there would still be complexities, but with the adult mind processing them.
Children are in a specific developmental stage based on their age, and so their understanding and responding to these extreme life experiences are all different.
I often wonder where this fine line is drawn between pushing our children far enough to challenge them, and pushing them so hard they are scarred.
In the West, we tend to err on the side of stopping earlier to avoid undue perceived emotional trauma.
I read Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, initially to try to understand more of the culture we are living in, but found myself thinking more about the deeper issues of parenting that go beyond culture:
As I have mentioned before, we all love our children, and want the best for them.
Chua points out that children do not do difficult things by themselves, but need parents to motivate or force them until they develop that discipline and learn to enjoy the activity in question.
The psychological and social science disciplines talk about the importance of resiliency as a life skill to deal with stress.
Incidentally, I had an interesting talk this summer with a friend and her son who help families of children with mental health challenges increase resiliency, and we had a lot in common in our experiences.
I think one of my roles as a parent is to help my children grow and stretch, but also teach them skills to counter the challenges of (in our situation) being a Third Culture Kid.
We have been back on the ground here for a month, and they are all absolutely thriving on their rediscovered routines.
Routine, oh blessed routine. How I love thee.
A weeklong holiday also helped them rediscover their home activities and have some needed family time.
One sign that particularly warmed my heart tonight was Meng Yuan (Second Daughter) eagerly reading her homework in Chinese out loud, over and over.
She has been the most resistant one to learn the language thus far, but I think she is suddenly discovering that she knows more than she thought.
Who would have know it was so finicky?