Saturday, March 17, 2007

Occupational Hazard

Living overseas is a blessing, both for us and our kids. I feel like it is changing us in positive ways. We see the world in a different light. It is not, however, without its downsides. One of those has become quite apparent lately in our son, and that is the desire to protect his heart emotionally from the transient nature of our relationships.

I have been watchful for this since we came to Singapore, because I've done some reading on third culture kids, which my children are. Third culture kids, or "global nomads" as they are sometimes called, are kids who have spent a significant portion of their formative years outside their country of origin. So they don't belong to their host culture, nor do they completely identify with their home culture. Therefore, they are part of a third culture with others in the same situation.

It often happens, particularly here in Singapore where many business people come for 2-3 years, that goodbyes become common. I find myself asking, when I meet someone new, "How long will you be here?" In the back of my mind is, "Will you be here long enough for us to really be good friends?" A detriment of being third culture people is that you get so tired of goodbyes that you learn to guard your heart and sometimes not let it grieve as it should.

Ethan has made comments lately that betray the fact that he's been doing this. Some of our good friends left the country today, and he didn't want to go to the airport to say goodbye because "it would be too sad." We have friends visiting next week, and when we told Ethan, his first comment was, "How long will they be here?" And often, he sighs and says, "Why do people have to keep leaving?"

We can't change the fact that this will happen. We can only help him deal with it. It seemed cruel to take him to the airport - like saying, "Here kid - cry!" But we did, and he did, and I think it was good for him to face how he's feeling.

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