Most often I feel like Sgt. Schultz on Hogan's Heroes: "I say nothing.... I know nothing!"
On Sunday while the more serious football enthusiasts were watching the Super Bowl, I was enjoying a lovely coffee klatsch with a sociable group of lesser football fans. The conversation flew from one topic to another as is typical among my friends. At one juncture, the subject matter centered on cross-cultural child-rearing. Mostly I just listened.
Just as we all have our own ways of coping, surviving, and thriving on the field, either by hunkering down or blending in, or any other variety of ways mentioned in a recent blog post by Rachel Pieh titled, 3 Types of Expatriates, we also have our own personal parenting styles and methods of raising children on the field.
Some will attempt to thoroughly immerse their children in the culture, sending them to the local schools in the local language. Some will keep their kids primarily in the expat community and English speaking schools, with the emphasis on preparing them for life and university in the U.S. someday. Some will keep their kids at home, teaching them in English with the focus on joining in ministry opportunities when they arise. Others will choose a combination of the above.
It’s all well and good. Each couple must decide for themselves which approach is the best for their particular situation and their individual children. There is no one right answer for every missionary family. The trouble comes when we start looking at each other and passing judgment on others’ decisions that conflict with our own. Thankfully I live in a community with a healthy amount of tension that results from differing opinions and experiences, minus any overt criticism.
Once again I refrain from offering the one-size-fits-all solution. I’ll just emphasize that it’s a tough decision that needs to be re-evaluated regularly. Just because one approach worked for a while does not mean we can't change it later. Whatever you choose may leave you with doubts and regrets. How’s that for a depressing thought? All we can do is pray, seek godly wisdom, and agree with our husbands on the right path for our unique families.
For me, I am in a season of reevaluating whether it’s time to drag my three teens out of their comfortable little bubble more frequently, take more forays into Indian villages, and force them to take more cross-cultural risks.
How about you? Where does your family fit in the cross-cultural continuum? Are you happy with your decisions? Ready for a change? Do tell. And do any of you dare to call yourself an expert on raising a family on the field? I'm just curious.
The good news is that most of the time, third culture kids turn out just fine. I cling to that hope.
IRL: Still struggling with the desire to be an “expert” in this whole raising kids overseas, while admitting I am really just learning it all with you.