The Extraordinary Childhood of a Third Culture Kid

Gina Butz culture, parenting, third culture kids 2 Comments

The extraordinary life of a third culture kid

photo by Gina Butz

I grew up on a corner lot with a huge backyard across the street from a giant park. The world was our plush, Kentucky bluegrass playground.

Our kids grew up surrounded by concrete. The nearest decent patch of grass was a solid mile away across a busy street.

One day, when they were littles, I lamented this fact to God. I felt like our kids were missing out on a “normal” childhood by being Third Culture Kids (TCKs). His clear response to me was, “Really, Gina? Your kids have ridden elephants in Thailand and climbed the Great Wall. They have been exposed to cultures and languages most people don’t see in their lifetimes. Is this not good enough?”

He made a strong argument.

Our kids never ate Cheerios or played little league or rode in car seats (yeehaw!). I always feared that their strange upbringing would be a source of distancing from friends here in the States. Instead, it seems to have given them some street cred.

jumping in the Andaman Sea off the black sand beaches of Langkawi

Lately, our kids and their friends have shared more stories about this sad, grassless childhood with other kids  school which has led to one girl declaring that she wants to be adopted into our family so she can travel with us (perhaps she doesn’t know she could go on her own?). As the stories come out about exotic places they’ve been and lived, the admiration climbs. It led Ethan’s friend and fellow TCK to say to me one day, “I think I’m realizing I have lived a good life.” Yes, yes you have.

In lamenting the fact that I couldn’t give our children a “normal” childhood, in some ways I missed the fact that we were giving them an extraordinary one. No, they don’t exactly know what to do with a backyard, but they can navigate an airport on their own. They can’t tell you how an American baseball game is played but they have road tripped between countries.

Being a Third Culture Kid comes with its gaps in experience, but the experiences they have are so incredibly rich that I wouldn’t trade them. I’m thankful that our kids spent their formative years in other cultures. More than that, I’m so thankful that they consider it a blessing as well.


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Comments 2

  1. I love this. Thanks for sharing. I have felt like I took mine from beautiful, green lush Europe to this concrete, smog filled country and yet they seem unfazed by it. They love the friends. Relationships are what makes a place worth living in and I am so thankful for the gift of good community in Hungary and here. Thanks for taking time to write. I love your blog entries. You are gifted!

    1. Thanks Julie! I’m glad your boys are enjoying it there. From the sounds of it, your family has been a huge blessing to many!

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