Juggling Lives

Night Juggler

The difficulty with juggling is keeping the balls in the air.

But keeping inanimate objects airborne is not nearly as intractable as when it feels as if one is playing with other people’s lives.

Our family’s life is spread over three continents. There is almost always a ball dropping. From inconsequential mistakes (like forgetting to book a return flight) to deeper hurts and misunderstandings; moments where negative emotions and a loss of identity cut deep; where unavoidable choices are inadvertently wounding; the pain of feeling excluded by both the ‘home’ culture and by the ‘adopted’ culture; endless losses and family gatherings missed… each of these quietly taken to heart in different ways by our different personalities.

The hardest part of this Third Culture family’s story is being unable to safeguard and protect our children from the harsh reality of complicated lives. Living in the tension is not easy. For years I felt like the stabiliser ribbon holding the family’s kite steady, but these days I understand that I can never offer enough security, protection, love or encouragement to bind the wounds.

And so I watch our beloved offspring strive, unravel and overcompensate.

I am constantly undone.

But God…

2014 Kite - At Last 2008

Night Juggler Image Source:
Flickr – Creative Commons Some rights reserved by garryknight

Chameleon Children

2013 Chameleon Children 1 One of our wonderful, intelligent, conflicted Third Culture Kids recently said something that confirmed for me that we have chameleons for kids!!

In that moment, I realised that they were guarding themselves and pretending to be exactly the same. I was both appalled and relieved. My gut response, as I watched in silence, was both to whimper in pain (knowing that what they portrayed was not the whole story of who they are) and yet almost simultaneously I was comforted that they were giving the ‘right’ answer (that they were honouring the lives of those around them and were not introducing complications that their peers were ill equipped to understand).

My reaction surprised me. I have always been able to acclimatise. I see it as a gift. I enjoy understanding the intricacies of lives that are not like mine. I happily bend and try to fit in. This God given ability has allowed me to move more easily between cultures and groups. Being able to empathize with others by moving into their situations has allowed my life to have a richness that I am grateful for. I have wonderful friends in many different places and situations. Furthermore, I think my ability to modify my preferences has meant that I have probably not known the same degree of loneliness that I might have if I was less able to adapt.

Yet watching one of my children do just that, shocked me….

And I’ve been mulling over my reaction ever since….

The problem is that fundamentally my man and I made the choice to lead this life
but our children’s lives are now riddled by complexities brought about by our decision.
We didn’t know it would be like this….
….and even if we had,
I don’t think we would have necessarily made a different choice…

It’s painful because I know (not just intellectually) that their lives are forever influenced by the reality that they are kids without a singular home culture…
Yet, I remind myself…
This God allowed….

I now know that no matter how good they get at ‘fitting in’ (and they already do that with differing degrees of success), they will never fully be ‘belong’ or have one national identity. Part of what defines them (and what is hard to watch as a parent), is that they have spent their lives being the minority.

This is the reality that has shaped them…
It is both a blessing and a curse…

We are proud of our kids’ compassion, desire to serve, stick-up for (and perhaps finally work among) the marginalized in society. They are mature individuals with strong voices, each one of them. Brave souls that are sometimes seen as strange, who know what it means to stand outside the circle and yet who have got up and are moving forward believing, like I do, that this is the life God ordained for them … and that, like all of our lives, our deepest pain and hardest experiences often get used for the greatest Glory! Nothing is wasted.

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