The Grove – TCKs

“What’s all this?” I ask my six-year-old daughter.

Piled a top her dresser is a stock pile of bags and random small boxes, each stuffed full. I peak into a few.  Oh, here’s where all our pencils have gone.  I’ve been looking for that necklace.  And there’s the hair bow we needed this morning.

“It’s all my special things that I’m taking to Grandma and Grandpa’s” she says matter-of-factly.

I sigh.  “You know we don’t leave for two months, right?  That’s a long time from now.  We’ll pack when it’s time to go.”

We begin to sort through her stash.  Rocks from outside.  Snail shells too.  Suddenly there’s a lump in my throat. Why does this pile of junk special things make me ache inside?

I dig through the layers and here’s what I find.

I believe in raising third culture kids.  I really, truly do.  I believe in this life we’re living.   


I still have a pile of fear and guilt and pain when it comes to the way I’m raising my kids.

I feel guilt that I’ve taken my kids away from their grandparents.

I feel pain that a trip to the airport makes my son think that we’re moving again.

I feel guilt that my child got a rare Asian disease.

I feel guilt that they need stability and we give them change and transition.  Packing boxes and bags?  That’s what she’s always known.

I fear that raising my kids this way will make them turn out weird.  (Am I allowed to say that?)

I fear that they’ll always feel “other,” that they won’t ever feel a strong sense of belonging.

I fear that one day they’ll resent their lack of normal childhood.

I fear that they’ll love their childhood so much that one day they’ll leave me for the other side of the world.

We’ll be here awhile if we keep going through this pile…

I think, “What am I supposed to say to all the mamas out there battling these same fears?”  Clearly, I’m not the have-it-all-figured-out expert.

Maybe I can list out all the positive qualities that TCKs are known to develop.  That might soothe some fear.  I could mention all the famous people who are TCKs, who clearly turned out okay.  That’s hopeful.

I ask the Lord “What I should say?” and he says, “What do you most need to hear?”

Deep breath.

Ok.  Well, here’s what I need to hear.  I need to hear that all mothers fear failing their children. That no matter where or how you live, your mama heart is wired to fear and ache and guilt over your children.

Past the tangled mess of our TCK worries, at the heart of our pile of motherhood fear and guilt is this:  As mothers, we are the most up-close and personal model of a Jesus-lover that our children will ever know.  I need to know that this scares you as much as it does me.  Because I know how much I fail to live and love like him.

I need to know that you too shed tears for the way your temper flairs, for the way your strength saps dry, for the way you’re supposed to have the answers and don’t.  I need to hear that you fall weary with me before the throne and say, “I’m not enough for this motherhood thing, especially in a foreign place.”

I need to sit here at his feet with you for a moment.  Pass a tissue, please.

While we’re here in our brokenness, the fears are growing somehow quieter, soft enough for us to hear.  Let’s listen now, good and hard.  I think he got’s something to say to us.

That love in your heart for those little people?  That love that pumps fiercer than you ever knew possible?  I made it.  Amazing, isn’t it?

This crazy life you’re living?  I called you to it.  Fear not, dear one.  I am with you in it.  

That messy pile of fear and guilt?  Pass it on over to me.  We’ll work through it together, love.    

That overwhelming “I’m not enough for this” feeling?  I know.  I see all your failures, daily in fact.  And it’s okay.  Really it is.  Because my grace is enough.  For you and for your kids.  Let go of fear and guilt, lean into the grace and watch, just watch what it will do.

I picked you to mother your children, you and no one else.  You’re right for it, I know.  And you’re doing a good job, even and especially when you’re falling weak into my arms.  I’ve got you, love. You and your kids.


 Alright, let’s here from all of you.  If you’re new to The Grove here at Velvet Ashes, this is our weekly time to share our hearts, our words, our art on our prompt.

Here’s how to share on this week’s prompt “TCK.”

  • You can share with us in the comments, if you don’t have a blog of your own. We have the amazing ability to post images in our comments! So post images of your art and/or share your words there.
  • If you write a comment, please avoid copying and pasting from Word as this will publish a lot of junk computer code.  It’s best to type it directly into the comment box.
  • If you have a blog, write or make art based on the prompt and join the link-up!
  • Be sure to add the Velvet Ashes link ( to your blog post.  You can add the prompt image too!
  • Please select the permalink from your post (so not your blog’s url, but your post url:
  • Click on the blue “Add your link” button below to add your blog post to this page.
  • It will walk you through selecting which image you want to show up in the linky.
  • Then your picture and link will show up below!
  • Then be sure to go visit each other’s sites and share some comment love! It’s the rule. We applaud brave hearts!

If you’re reading in email, be sure to click “Read in Browser” to go to the site to view the link ups and conversation in the comments.


  1. Elizabeth May 15, 2014

    I laughed at your daughter packing 2 months ahead, because my daughter started packing for NEXT furlough as soon as we returned from our last furlough. Tried to tell her it wasn’t for 2 more years, but it didn’t seem to matter to her. It’s fading now, but she used to talk about ‘Merica and seeing Grandma and going on the airplane and watching movies several times a day. She is only 3, though 🙂

    But all this guilt, yes. And I have been told by several people experienced in either raising TCKs or ministering to TCKs that the guilt will kill you. I especially resonated with the one where you fear they will love this life so much that someday they will do it too, leaving you without them.

    No answers here, just a fellow sojourner. I mean, I’m almost 33 and just this year understanding some leftover bits from my childhood! So I guess I just figure my kids may have to work some things out as adults. I heard someone once say they joke that they do the best they can now, and pay for therapy later. I thought that was hilarious, and a good idea, and told my husband, who said, no, we will not pay for their therapy later! They will pay for their own therapy. Just like we do/did. LOL.

    But still, I think in a house full of love, and with open discussions about what it means to be a TCK, that our kids will learn (as I did) that some of the uncomfortable things that happen aren’t our parents’ fault (a big fear of mine is being blamed for all their issues, and it being true). Rather, our issues are a product of a lifestyle we lead, and talking about it is not about placing blame but understanding where we come from and why we are the way we are, and that is a very freeing thing.

    And really, the information is so much more available now than it was before. My mom had zero resources for this, besides other military wives sharing some practical advice. No vocabulary for it. As I learn, I share stuff with her, and it’s all new to her, but it makes sense. Of course information by itself doesn’t save, we can still have messed up families with heads full of newfound knowledge, but knowledge and understanding are helpful on the path to healing.

    1. Danielle Wheeler May 15, 2014

      Yes, I am SO thankful we don’t have to be pioneers when it comes to raising TCKs.  Bless your mom for traveling those uncharted waters!

      You’re right, a house of love and open discussions go a long, long way.  And I think modeling for our kids that therapy is a good thing will help them not have a phobia when they need it!  And even be motivated to pay for it. 😉

      Glad for a fellow sojourner, Elizabeth.

  2. Anisha May 16, 2014

    As a new cross cultural working/Mom trying to deal with all that comes with the reality of raising my son overseas, I was delighted to read your post! Thanks for sharing!

  3. NK May 16, 2014

    As an adult TCK let me address these fears.

    Yes, sometimes I wished we had lived closer to my natural grandparents and cousins. I can’t say I had or even currently have a particularly close relationship to them, although this didn’t mean they weren’t special. BUT, I also grew up with many surrogate aunties, grandparents, cousins who fill that gap.

    You learn pretty quickly that trips to the airport are normal, that flying across the world -or less far- is just part of life. You end up with a zillion airport/plane stories to tell- like the time there was a very friendly air hostess (they were still called that then!) who let us try some of her make up, or the time before closed luggage compartments when during a hard landing all the luggage came flying out and landed in a pile at the front of the plane!  Ask any seasoned TCK  and they’ll do you one better on airport stories. They are able to tell you the best and worst ever airports and airlines as well as the three letter codes for many airports.

    Yes, you might get some crazy disease- like the time my sister got hook worm and they started coming out her mouth in the night when she crawled into my parents’ bed……yup, complete horror experience for my mum, but it sure makes for a good story now! I don’t want to minimise the risks – esp if you’re living somewhere with no easy access to good medical care- but that is where trusting God who calls us comes in, and thankfully these days there’s also medevac!

    Yes, us TCKs need stability, just like anyone else. But let me tell you this very very clearly: if you can teach your child that their stability/security is in and comes from God, who is never changing, that He is the firm foundation in their transitions and changing lives, then you give them the greatest gift! I learnt that early- and I’m forever grateful, because I now see non-TCK friends who have put their stability in certain places or particular people and when these are removed their world collapses.

    Packing bags and boxes……can’t say I ever came to love that part! I still hate packing! I still have it done at least the night before, even if it’s only for a one hour flight the next day 🙂

    Yes, your kids will almost certainly feel “other”…..I still do. Having said that, this is most strongly highlighted in non cross-cultural settings for me. Living in a Western country has been the hardest for me, because most people there can’t relate to you and your experiences of life. When you’re living cross culturally people don’t expect you to fit in because you’re the foreigner, so that’s normal and accepted.  The feeling “other” is the one thing about being a TCK that I sometimes wish I could change, and yet I wouldn’t swap my growing up abroad for anything! The coming back is the hard part!

    Am I weird? Yes probably! I know I’ve sometimes felt like a bit of a rare zoo specimen which others aren’t sure is safe or not- so tell us again where you’re from? It’s so complicated! You lived where? So where is home? … As a teenager back in a western country where I didn’t feel accepted or that I fit in this was really hard for me- the being different and other. But as I’ve grown I’ve realised most people are a little weird in their own ways!

    Do I resent my lack of normal childhood? No! A thousand times no! The richness other places and cultures bring, the widening of your horizons, the adventure, the un-boringness…..sooo worth it!

    Will your TCK kid one day leave you for other side of the world? Yes, quite possibly. I have, but then my two siblings haven’t.

    1. Danielle Wheeler May 16, 2014

      It’s great hearing from adult TCKs.  Although I positively gagged at the hook worm story.  Horror, indeed!  Your poor sister…and mother!  Glad to hear how much you treasure the way you grew up.

  4. Brittany May 16, 2014

    I’m new in the field with two little ones and I’ve felt all of those fears in such a short amount of time!  What tender mercies our Father has on us!  You writing out those truths from Him ministered to my heart.

    1. Danielle Wheeler May 16, 2014

      Yes, so thankful for those tender mercies.  Glad these words were for you and well as for me!

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