I’ve lived most of my life as a third-culture kid. Basically, stranded in between countries and cultures. It’s been both the best and the worst of times. As a mom now, though, it’s a gift I hope I can pass on to my kids. To see the world from a different angle. I love learning from other moms doing just that. Esther Brumme – Third Culture Mama – is someone who has given me fresh perspective so many times. I love what she’s sharing today.
I am trying to think back to the first time I took interest in things around the world. They call me a Third Culture Kid (TCK), meaning that I spent my growing up years in a culture that was neither of my parents’ passport cultures. I grew up in France with an American father and a British mother. Never did I feel fully American or British, or French for that matter. The TCK identity is a complex one, rooted in something other than nations and flags. When I was young, mum casually talked about her Albanian adventures in Bible smuggling. My dad would often refer to his transformational peace-corps experience in Ghana. And I spent the first two years of my life toddling around a large floating hospital ship, sailing from port to port.
Over the years, each cross-cultural experience has shaped me and made me insatiably curious about the world. Today, as a Third Culture mother, I’m recognizing more and more how a life lived engaging different cultures can be such a gift. It’s a gift I long to pass on to my children.
We started by giving our kids multicultural names and teaching them the thrill of learning languages as an encouragement to be bridge-builders and peace-makers in a world of increasing nationalism, judgement and fear. What a dream it would be for my kids to grow a world-shaped heart that aches to see the good in “the other.”
If I listen carefully, it’s a heaven-focused heart, beating loudly for the least of these.
It’s a color-blind heart that yearns for reconciliation.
At its core, this heart for the world craves justice and salvation.
You really don’t have to be a Third Culture Kid or a jet-setting family to pass on an openness to the world. My “just one culture” husband started to see his own country through a different lens as he went through a university year abroad. His perspective changed for his own culture and it was then that he received eyes for “the other.” You don’t even have to travel. One mama friend of mine went so far as to learn a foreign language with her daughters as a new way of seeing the world. It’s pretty remarkable. Those are the true agents of change, right in the middle of Virginia.
Just eight weeks ago, we moved our American-born babies ages 4, 2 and 6 months from city life in the United States to a tiny village in France to further our own calling to be cross-cultural bridge-builders. It’s far from the romantic picture of riding a vintage bicycle with a baguette under arm. Clothes are still spilling out of five suitcases in our bedroom. We shudder at the bureaucratic mountain left to summit. It’s a chaotic, stressful and tedious journey that is already stretching my husband and I, our marriage and our family far beyond what we had ever imagined.
I liken moving across the globe with three small children to running a marathon while nursing a babe and noticing the other kids have untied your shoelaces. Uprooting my family is not without sacrifice. And yet, somehow, somehow we press on, one foot in front of the other, venturing out into our calling to keep those hearts tender for our world.
I just love that French word “terroir”, most often used in reference to wine. “Terroir” describes that dynamic process by which the whole environment: climate, geography, soil, air – gives the characteristic flavor and taste to a product. We (and our kids!) also cultivate a world-shaped heart by the things we are exposed to.
Step out and invite your kids on a journey of growing world-shaped hearts. Think about how you discuss heavy world news with your kids. Do we take the time to look up those far-flung places up on a world map and begin to imagine the lives of the people who live there?
The world may even show up around the corner. Let’s make a chocolate chip welcome for refugees who moved in three streets over. Or venture out to convenience stores and open markets. Let’s speak with shop-keepers who have choppy English and learn their stories. And try out some mysterious ingredients while we’re at it.
Simple actions help us get comfortable with the unfamiliar. They give us and our kids new eyes for “the other.” It’s all part of the bridge-building vision that we can actively take part every day.
It’s how we become peace-makers in a world of hate, which seems pretty rare these days. That’s surely something we are all called to.
Esther Brumme is a mother to three little ones under the tender age of four. She feels most free running, learning about the world, and savoring an espresso with some dark chocolate. Esther blogs about motherhood, her family’s latest move to a French village and multicultural life on www.thirdculturemama.com and you can also follow her adventures on Instagram @thirdculturemama.