“What do your kids do over there?”
“Oh, they’re home schooled. So what activities are they involved in?”
“You guys really do live an adventurous life, but I could never do that!”
Comments like these, although I’m sure innocent and well-meaning, only add fuel to the guilt fire already stirring in my soul.
We serve in a country where kids don’t get to have much of a childhood. They study 8-10 hours a day, usually more when they hit high school. Their weekends and holidays are spent doing copious amounts of homework and attending extra classes. The pressure to succeed is suffocating.
We didn’t want to give our kids this type of childhood, so we chose to home school. (Although I’m not judging those who send their kids to local schools—everyone is different!) But as the kids get older, I realized some things are missing.
There are little to no organized sports to be a part of. Clubs for art, theater, or music might exist, but they lean a little too far into the perfection and performance arena than we are comfortable with. There are no libraries. There are few parks with actual playground equipment. Instead, they have the rusty metal exercise equipment frequented by the elderly. There are few local kids to play with…because they’re at home studying.
In our 8 years serving here, most of the time, we’ve been fortunate to be on a team with other kids. Ages and genders don’t always match up, but everyone is happy to at least have a playmate. Their creativity in playing with sticks and dirt or in an abandoned kitchen are amazing to watch. I treasure each day they get to play with friends, yet I still long for more for them.
When discussing possible future education ideas, I began to complain again about the things our kids are missing out on. My husband gently pointed out that we won’t be able to re-create our childhood experiences. In some ways, praise God! As that realization has settled in my heart, I’ve begun to slowly release my expectations for what I think our kids should experience.
“Your kids get to experience some pretty amazing things!”
“My kids have never even been out of the state, and your kids have been across the world several times!”
“I wish it was easier for my kids to learn a second language.”
I’m reminded that yes, our kids will miss out on some things that we consider a “normal” childhood in the US. But I wouldn’t trade those for the life they’re getting to experience now!
Our oldest is reaching an age that he can understand the emotions tied to our nomadic lives. He’s been lamenting not having the same friends on our team when we return. He’s sad he won’t get to spend every afternoon with good friends. He’s bummed we’ll be leaving the US soon and he won’t see the good buddies he has here for a few years.
My heart aches for him.
But I realize the opportunities to share God’s love, provision, and faithfulness abound. He may see his life as unfair in some ways, but we’re quick to point out all the blessings we receive. We want our kids to share in our calling to serve overseas. God didn’t just call my husband and me there. No, I can share loads of stories of how the kids have softened ground and opened doors to conversations. He most certainly uses them as well! We want them to embrace that and choose gratefulness.
As I continue to push away the guilty feelings and thoughts, I replace them with thankfulness that we are in God’s will and He will provide everything we need. It may not be a baseball team or ballet class or guitar lessons, but it will be other unique opportunities, and they will be enough.
Have you wrestled with guilt over the impact your cross-cultural life has on your kids?