Sunday, March 25, 2012

MCC rooftop Birthday BBQ


The oldest niece Hannah is preparing to leave home to go to college.  This reminds us that Lydia is not that far behind, and in only four precious years she, too, will be leaving our nest. 

Lydia is so very genuine.  What you see is what you get.  There is no faking it, no hiding behind fancy clothes, text messages, or make-up.  No sense in extra "fluff" in a relationship.  When she makes a phone call to a friend here in Colombia, we have to prompt her to "be flowery" in order to maintain Colombian social graces.  For her, it does not come naturally.

Gifts were perfect this year:  a new fountain pen, journal, monster flash drive, cash, gift card for comfortable clothing, and a new camera.

On her birthday, we celebrated with a delicious lunch hosted by our sweet friends, Neil and Elizabeth, with another sweet friend from MCC who was visiting.

Then, I convinced her that maybe she should consider inviting some friends for an outing.  Considering the social difficulties we faced this year, maybe I should not have made the suggestion, but she agreed and invited a few friends to go bowling.

Honestly, I was pretty nervous.  As a mother in a 14 year old social setting I was constantly evaluating myself:

Am I talking too much?
Should I say more?
Did that sound stupid?
Should I speak in English or Spanish?
Did I just embarrass her?
Am I sitting too close?
Should I be sitting closer?
How do I look?
Should I really be bowling in this lane beside them?
Am I being too loud?

And then, I remembered.
This is what it is like to socialize in a 14 year old setting.

The eight year olds were just fine, however...

I learned that it WAS acceptable for the mother to bring a candle into the restaurant to put in the crepe to celebrate.  It WAS NOT acceptable for the mother to then sing Happy Birthday.

Oh, Lydia, we love you.  
Thank you for sharing your real self with us.  
I think that very soon you will find friendships that can honor that realness in you, accept you for who you are, and create many new memories for you to cherish.


Birthdays normally make me sentimental.  And happy.  This year, those feelings are even more keen as they are the ages in which we said we would leave Colombia.  There is a cloud looming over our house, always reminding us that we are in the process of saying goodbye, of an uncertain future, of feeling scared and excited for the months to come.

We started the day with breakfast out, and the social worker-mom came to the table to ask what things he was proud of during his time of being 11, and what things he wanted to do when he was 12.

-I worked really hard in school and raised my grades.
-I tried a new sport (gymnastics).
-My basketball team made it to the finals.
- I made new friends and speaking Spanish felt normal.

-I want to cook more Colombian food.
-I want to join a soccer team.
-I want to swim in the Great Lakes.
-I want to learn to be happy wherever I am.

Due to oven problems, I had trouble with the requested chocolate cupcakes.  They all collapsed.  Abby said, "Hey, Mom, I can fix that..." And in no time she had filled them with a dollop of chocolate ganache, strawberries, and powdered sugar.  Thank you, Abby.

We rented a micro soccer court for the afternoon, grateful during the downpour that we paid for the one with the roof.  He invited a few friends from school and they played and laughed for hours and hours.

And, in normal Colombian style, several parents stayed and played too.

My boy.  
I know that emotionally, this has been harder on you than most of us.
I know you feel it all, and sometimes that makes it hard.
I also know that this will mean so much to you as you reflect on the year you were 12, and for many, many years after.
Thank you for being a boy, and for loving so deeply.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mia!

Our puppy turned 1 on February 20, and we celebrated with a cake made especially for her!

Monday, March 5, 2012

My Global Nomads

Third Culture Kids
Global Nomads
Hidden Immigrants
Trans-cultural Kid
Internationally mobile children
Missionary kids

Making a decision to live overseas for three or more years has completely different implications for adults than for children.  Aaron and I could have signed up for a MCC term before we had kids, when they were babies, or maybe we could have waited until they were older and gone to college.  But we didn't.  We wanted to have this experience during formative years for our children, so that they could understand it and remember it and it could shape their identities and perspectives on life.  

I will be honest and say that as a parent it is hands-down the most difficult decision I have made.  Comforting your child through more than a year of mourning/missing their friends, encouraging them to go ahead to school despite the fact that they cannot communicate and as a result are ignored by their classmates, explaining the reasons that teachers and others say the things they say and why it is strange-mannered to us....these are only a small portion of the challenges we have faced as a family.

And now, after they feel adjusted and loved and fully integrated into this setting, we are facing the challenge of helping them find a way to reintegrate into their "passport country" and navigate all over again.  They will have the language and more friends and family to return to.  But everyone involved in these relationships, including them, have changed.  The strangeness of culture and fitting in will be there, and likely be more painful because it is what is "supposed" to feel like home.

Children who spend a significant time abroad face many challenges...
They feel different and marginalized; "out of sync."
They can feel restless and rootless...unsettled in their relationships.
They feel emotionally detached.
The feel lonely and have complicated grief and/or anger.
People see them as different, and people in the United States don't tend to like "different."
They have higher rates of depression.

Children who spend a significant time abroad have many assets as well...
They are flexible and adaptable.
They are more likely to be multilingual and have interests in learning languages.
It is easy for them to be culturally sensitive and understand differences.
They have strong observation skills.
They are quick thinkers, they take initiative, and solve problems.
They care about global issues and have a multi-dimensional worldview.
They have a strong spiritual perspective at a young age.

I look at the faces of my three global nomads, and my heart swells with pride.  Their growth and development over the last three years has been immense.  They have astounded me with their resilience.  I respect them deeply.

I am not sure I could have discovered this without facing these challenges and working through them together.

I am so very sorry for the pain these transitions have caused them.  As a mother, I wish this pain to be gone, or to never have existed.  However, I am not sorry for the successes they have gained...the new relationships, the fluency and comfortability of a new language, the deeper understanding of and love for a new country, the questioning of the "norms" in US culture that will always be with them, the nagging to know more, to go deeper.  These are the gifts they have inherited through their pain, and for them, I am grateful.

Most of this information came from the following site.  They are lots of good resources on the web related to Third-Culture Kids and Global Nomads.