I’ve spent the last few months learning as much as my brain could absorb on TCKs and how we can better care for them and their parents. The momma and teacher in me love this expanded category in ministry. Read more below…
A little side note on the transition story above…I’ve learned over the last few months that saying goodbye is appropriate more times than not. I think in the military “See you later” became the preferred phrase because, well, the unthinkable could happen to your military service member and we just couldn’t bear saying goodbye. We desperately wanted to believe that they would come home and we would see them later. But saying goodbye to those friends that moved or when we moved would have in most cases helped my kids. We did see many of them again through travel or returning to the same duty stations, but our daily lives changed. The friends that we spent time with several times a week were now just a once in awhile phone call or maybe video call. Our lives changed and that needed the goodbye. Painful as it is, transition is a long process with no shortcuts. Ending one season well, and that means doing the goodbyes, helps us to start fresh in the new place.
This time of quarantine is not one any of us could have prepared for, and certainly meets the definition of adversity. Back up just a few months to the beginning of 2020 and none of us would have imagined the entire world (more or less) would be shut down – no travel, schools are closed, offices are closed. Only essential businesses are open. Now we all need to find a way to not only survive this pandemic, but hopefully to thrive through it. We should use this time to reflect, decide what’s truly important, and determine what parts of “normal” we really want to return to. It’s an opportunity to reset.
Seven people living on a 38’ sailboat for almost 6 years has given us some experience with isolation. Going out to eat or easy access to stores is not something we have. We typically do our own laundry in a bucket, make do with the food we have onboard, I cut everyone’s hair (including my own), and when we do go to the store, we take our dinghy to shore and then we walk. We spend a lot of time sailing and sitting in anchorages, sometimes with very few other people nearby. When we do meet up with other boats and other kids, there’s a chance they may not get along. Thankfully, they often do because boat kids love other boat kids – they instantly have something in common. When we go to shore, it’s usually a new place. We’re learning our way around, finding what’s available, figuring out a new currency, meeting new people (missionaries) and jumping in to their routines, and many times, it’s almost all in another language.
We intentionally made the decision to downsize and squeeze into 380 square feet during Dennis’ last tour in the Navy. Two years later, after Dennis spent 21 years in the Navy, we felt it was time to for him to retire. Dennis had watched as the kids kept growing and he had been gone more than he had been home. He felt they were starting to drift away. We also felt God was calling us to something else and we wanted this new ministry to be something we did together as a family. The past 6 years haven’t been easy in a small space. We’re always in each other’s way, as one person literally has to move for another to pass. Emotions can run high and tempers can flare, but we also have to know how to resolve those conflicts and how to forgive. Our family is close, physically and emotionally. While we haven’t loved every minute of being in such confined quarters, we are so very glad we’ve had this opportunity to really know our kids – to be their friends, as well as their parents, to laugh together, learn together, and serve together. I hope that you all are seeing the positive aspect of this forced halt in your lives and have taken the opportunity to really get to know your family.
I’ve been pulling together a list of resources and ideas that are helpful to us and may be helpful to many of you. We normally do not have access to wifi, just the small amount of data on our cell phones (3GB/month) when we are close enough to shore. Sitting in a marina (as the Mexican government has requested boats to limit movement) gives us access to wifi (still only about half the speed available in the US) and opens up a whole new experience for us. In fact, we feel LESS isolated now with the world moving to virtual meetings. Our older 3 are joining in on youth group and getting to do video chats with friends. Our oldest two are taking an online college course – we usually do our schoolwork the old fashioned way, with real books! Dennis and I are working on a course in member care, and we all get to join our churches back in the US for worship services. There are many wonderful things available to us all now, but make sure that you are spending more time together than time alone with a screen.
I divided the resources into four categories – Family Fun, Learning/Homeschooling, Relationships, and Other Resources. I’d love to add a book list too. Send me/comment below with some of your favorite books. Personally, I really enjoy historical fiction.
It’s easy to just sit around, binge watch Netflix, Disney+, or whatever. Eating snacks is easier than making healthy meals. In order to thrive, we must make plans – plan meals, make a schedule, be deliberate. If you need some time to mope (I get it, sometimes I just need a small pity party, do something mindless) then give yourself some time to mope, but then get up off the couch.
So, make some plans. Designate different nights for different activities. It’ll help the days go by and give everyone something to look forward to. We’re not saying spend every waking moment together, but plan some specific family activities. Older kids might balk at first, but they’ll come around.
Pick a tv series and watch it once a week: Remember when we could only watch our favorite show once a week and how much we looked forward to that? We just started watching The Dukes of Hazzard with our kids on Mondays. We also watch Little House on the Prairie another night. It’s a lot of fun to reminisce and share some of our childhood favorites with our kids.
Educational night: We watched an episode from PBS NOVA on how armor was made for knights. It was great and the kids can’t wait for our next educational night. We also enjoy watching Bear Grylls. You never know when you need some British Special Forces’ survival skills.
Game night: Pick one of those long, time-consuming games, our family favorite is Settlers of Catan. A game of pounce (aka nertz) is great for fast moving, loud and crazy fun.
Movie Night: Some friends of ours at are excelling at this! Each of their kids gets to pick a theme, pick a movie, decorate, and they all come in costumes to match the theme. I am so impressed with their creativity! We just watch a movie and eat homemade pizza every Friday night. I’m feeling like a slacker.
Dining In: Want to go out to a restaurant? Make one at home! The kids can make a menu, cook (even young ones can put crackers and cheese on a plate or make a peanut butter sandwich), set the table, serve, and even clean up. Dress up and have fun!
Dinner: If you’re like me, making dinner every night feels exhausting! If you have older kids, assign them a night. You can help with the basic planning, let them know what you have available or what needs to be consumed soon, but let them look up some recipes and have at it.
Listen to a podcast: Here’s our favorite kid-friendly one, Red School Bus. We all love it! Dennis went to high school with James. This is one of our favorite episodes (right after we got to meet them in St. Louis for dinner).
Backyard (or indoor) camping: Set up the tent (or a blanket fort inside), start a campfire, roast some hot dogs or marshmallows and sleep outside. Spend some time outside during the day too. Sunlight is a natural virus killer and great source of Vitamin D.
Go out and stargaze: If you live somewhere without bright street lights, head outside with a telescope and stargazer app. If there are too many outside lights, find an online planetarium. And while you’re at it, check out NASA’s website.
Everything can be learning! This is one of the focuses of homeschooling. We make almost everything a learning experience. I keep seeing people say that their “…kids aren’t learning right now. This online school isn’t working. My kids don’t find it challenging.” This is especially true for young children. When Hope was 7, we were a part of an online charter school. They met for an online class 3 times a week. IT WAS AWFUL! They weren’t allowed to turn on their microphones and the teacher expected them to type their answers. Seven year olds typing answers, insert eye roll here. Even math problems were terrible. The teacher never gave them enough time to work out the problem and didn’t teach anything! I had to sit with her the entire time all while dealing with my other 4 (the twins were less than a year old!). Then the one hour online class would drag out to 2 to 3 hours because the teacher felt they didn’t cover enough. I can certainly see how many of you would be frustrated right now. Young kids are not designed to sit still at a computer and try to learn. Kids should be:
Moving – get outside if you can or come up with some physical games to play inside. Hullabaloo was one of my kids’ favorite indoor movement games when they were little, and they didn’t even need me!
Reading, reading, reading! This is fundamental. Reading aloud to kids of all ages is so important! Have kids do a video call with grandparents and let them read Grandma a story, or vice versa if they are too young to read. Audio books are great also! Kids can illustrate the book as they listen.
Drawing/coloring – who doesn’t love to draw/color? That’s precisely why they make adult coloring books! Pull out some paints and canvases and paint along with Bob Ross! He can take even the most stressed out person and have him smiling while painting “happy little trees.”
Writing (if they are old enough), telling stories, explaining how something works…written and oral communication are so important!
Cooking – following recipes includes a lot of math and is delicious quality time.
An adult TCK friend, daughter of missionary friends, and once our babysitter, wrote this set of 3 read-aloud coloring books to help parents explain the current situation with their children. Recommended for ages 4-7. Available for immediate download on etsy.
Virtual museum tours – Contrary to what many may think, homeschoolers do not sit at home all day. We go to museums, national parks, libraries, historical sites, and SO many other places. Since we can’t go to an actual museum, check out these two sites with links to virtual tours, Timeout and Travel and Leisure.
Learn something new – Find something your children enjoy and learn more about it. We’re all studying marine biology now. We’re learning about the oceans we live on and the animals that surround us. We’ve now added Oceans Initiative’s online marine biology camp to our syllabus.
Check out this list of 1500 online courses. Some of these are available for a fee if you want to receive credit/certification. They have the courses listed by topic. There’s a course for practically anything you can think of. I even saw a course on poker strategy from MIT and another on wine!
Travel virtually – Pick somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit. Find it on Google earth. Do some research, look up the top things to do there, find recipes and create a local meal from your chosen place. Read fictional and non-fictional books about that country or place. This book, Give Your Child the World by Jamie C. Martin, has some great ideas and lists books by age and place.
This is a trying time for many as we’re suddenly “stuck” at home with our family. Many are realizing that they don’t know their family or maybe even don’t like them. My parents’ church, Castleview Baptist, in Colorado, has been offering some great advice on those relationships during their online services through a series called, “Better Together.” Topics so far include, Husbands and Wives, Communication, and Cooperation in the Home. They are on live on Facebook every Sunday at 10:30am MDT.
Focus on the Family has some fabulous resources for couples, parents, strengthening/growing in your faith, and even ways to stay engaged in our culture.
And one of my all time favorite book series for relationships – the Five Love Languages of…there’s a book for singles, couples, children, teens, and even a military edition. Gary Chapman has many other wonderful books available.
Lindsay Braman put together a simple list to keep ourselves mentally in check while we’re home. Check out her site if you would like to print the checklist.
Looking for some good news? These videos are all about the good going on around us. They’re pretty funny too.
TCK Training with Lauren Wells is offering a free 3 part series on helping kids work through Covid-19. She also has a 3 hour seminar coming up on May 2 on Raising Healthy TCKs. I took this seminar in February and learned a lot. It’s currently $49. Try code FEBLIVE for a 50% discount. I’m not sure if it still works, but it’s worth a try.
We had such a great time meeting the fifty plus people at the Annual Conference for TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission) and leading the youth. I wish I had taken more pictures and videos but these give you an idea of what a wonderful week we had in a beautiful place.
More videos from the talent/variety show on our Facebook group, Wherever the Wind Blows (S/V Ankyrios). The kids did some of their favorite Veggie Tales songs. The files are too big too load here but they’re worth the click over to facebook.
Life is full of many things, some pretty and some ugly. We want everyone to see the pretty stuff – the things we brag about, sharing every last detail. But there’s usually also stuff that’s ugly. This is the stuff we hide. We don’t like to think about it even ourselves.
So far we’ve shared the pretty stuff with our ministry, but there’s an ugly side, a hard side. Things that bring us to tears oftentimes.
Today we said “See ya later” to the missionary families we’ve been working with in La Paz. It was rough. There have been tears in our family tonight. We’ve been here one month. That’s all, but in some ways we feel like we’ve known these families forever. And leaving is hard.
Our family spent over 20 years in the Navy saying “See ya later” to more friends than we can count. We learned to never say goodbye. One, it’s just WAY too hard. And two, a lot of times we do see them again. But I’ll say this, it stinks. It didn’t get easier just because we had done it so many times. If anything, it got harder. But we continued to jump in immediately when we moved somewhere new. We made friends quickly. We found a new church, a new grocery store, a new friend to list on our kids’ emergency contact paperwork. We continued to cry and mourn when we left to go somewhere new, knowing the new place wouldn’t be like the old place. It would be different, but we would hold to the hope and knowledge that every time we moved before, we’d eventually make that new place home and it would one day be hard to leave too. I had no idea that the 20+ years in the Navy was part of our preparation for becoming missionaries.
The very nature of our ministry, reaching out to serve those who serve, means we’re constantly on the move. We’re only in a place a short time. We connect quickly. Our kids connect even faster. (I have to say, it’s amazing how fast our kids connect. I am SO proud of them.) And then we leave. It’s hard on us and it’s hard on the missionaries. These families have left their homes to make a new home in the place God called them to serve. For some it’s a lifetime and others, it’s a season, and it’s just hard. They’re in a new place, finding a new grocery store, making new friends, and many times even in a new language. (Tangent – Missionary kids are remarkable. They’re called Third Culture Kids. They are usually from one culture, live in a second, but become a blend of the two – creating a unique third culture. It’s sometimes difficult for them to feel like they ever fit in. Next time you meet a missionary kid, tell them you think they’re awesome, because they are.)
We know we’ll stay in touch and we hope to see these families again. But we know that even if our paths don’t cross again on this earth, we will see each other one day in Heaven.