Home and Heritage

Written by Janine Alvarado. Original post appears here.

Over the last year, I’ve been reading a book about raising healthy TCKs (Third Culture Kids). There are some wonderful benefits to raising your kids overseas (like an expanded global worldview, outside-the-box thinkers, an intuitive ability to empathize, etc.). But there are also challenges that many TCKs tend to face and that don’t often surface until their adult years.

So, I’ve been reading about them and some proactive approaches as a parent to help them.

One of the suggestions was regarding how we spoke about “home.”

In my mind, “home” is America. It can also be wherever we currently have our suitcases—but the key idea of “home” for me is in a little wooded street between hills, with a greenhouse with a white porch, drafty bedrooms, and ongoing improvement projects.

For my kids, “home” is Japan. Their passports may say otherwise, but to them, our corner apartment on the side of a busy street through town is where their life goes on. Trips to America are just that—trips—to a foreign country. Loved ones are there, but essentially it’s a country and a culture where life is different.

In the book I’m reading, the author recommends referring to Mom and Dad’s home culture as their “heritage” as compared to their home.

It’s an interesting concept! So, we’ve been taking the opportunity to explore things on our trip to America as learning experiences for the kids: “This is where Mommy comes from.” “These are some things I ate growing up.” “This is how people in this part of America do this.”

Even though we’re American (well, and Honduran too), having lived on another continent for so long—we’ve changed a lot. Our ways of doing things have changed. Our taste buds have changed. Our way of thinking and perspectives on many things have changed. So, our culture at “home”—the one in Japan—is not necessarily American. It’s a little mix of everything that works for us.

Approaching things from a heritage perspective has helped me be more purposeful about things—pointing things out, having conversations. Granted, they aren’t in-depth conversations since it’s with a (almost) 7-year-old and a 4-year-old.

But it’s a start between bridging these worlds that are oceans, plane rides, and life experiences apart.

2 thoughts on “Home and Heritage”

  1. Wonderful article, thank you for sharing. Although I was not raised as a missionary kid, I lived in multiple countries and states as a military brat. As a child, when someone would ask me where I was “from” I would always say, “The United States.” Oversees that would receive a chuckle but also an understanding smile. Once we moved back to the States people thought I was crazy to say that and would tell me so. I started saying I was from Oklahoma because both sets of grandparents lived there. I would be “corrected” because, until I went to college, I had only lived there for a year or so. To this day people still tell me where they think I’m from. Texas – because that’s where you graduated from high school or where you lived the longest. Oklahoma – because that’s where my parents are from. California – because that’s where I was born. Despite this silly challenge, I wouldn’t trade the experiences we were blessed with by traveling around the world. BTW – home is where you hang your hat. Right now for me that’s in Gladstone (aka Happy Rock) North Dakota. Thank you again for your article.

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