I hate goodbyes. I know… everyone says it, but I think this is the first time I realized how AWFUL saying goodbye is. Usually, I’m saying goodbye to a friend going on a month vacation, or my dad when he goes on a business trip for a couple weeks, or my family when I left for college (an entire 45 minutes away).
Now there were some harder times when I had to say goodbye. My sister and I are really close, so when she left for college (a 4 hour drive North) for the first time, I was pretty miserable. Gosh, THAT was hard. But then I bawled like a baby when she got married because she would be moving out of our house into a place a whopping 5 minutes away from us (seriously, I could walk to the place).
But TONIGHT! Oh tonight…I held my sleeping niece, her head resting on my shoulder. You see, we play together all the time. I see her at least every other day. I pretend I’m a monster, and she laughs at me. That’s our thing! Anyway, tonight I handed her to my brother-in-law and said goodbye to both her and my sister. For those who are new to this blog and don’t know me, I’m leaving for Thailand for an entire year to serve missionary kids. I know to some of you, a year is nothing! But this is kind of new to me. By the time this post goes up, I’ll be on a plane, headed for the other side of the world!
I didn’t expect to cry. But as soon as my sister said goodbye, I knew it was coming. Don’t you hate that? Your lip starts doing it’s own little dance, so you bite it to hold it still. But then your nose starts running, and your face feels hot, and it feels like you have enough water behind your eyes to fill a swimming pool. But, of course, you don’t want to let yourself cry in front of people, so you try little things like not looking at the person, pretending there’s something fascinating on the ceiling, or taking these enormous deep breaths (as if that’s any more subtle than just crying). It’s unavoidable though. If you feel like you’re going to cry, you’re body is telling you that you NEED to cry. It helps, it does! Even though it may be embarrassing and miserable.
I interviewed 5 college-aged missionary kids this year. About 4 of them had to leave their family and friends on one side of the world (where they are serving as missionaries) to get their college education here in the US. How do they handle saying goodbye year after year? Kids, ages 6-18, who have to go to boarding school (which includes MANY Third Culture Kids) have to say goodbye to their parents EVERY semester. Sometimes their siblings even go to different boarding schools than they do. How do they handle it? The average missionary family returns to their passport country every 3-4 years to spend 6 months to 1 year (or more) “home”. When that happens, the missionary kids have to say goodbye to their friends. Sometimes, they are unsure if their friends will still be home during that time. Third Culture Kids are used to a life of travel…of picking up their life and moving…of saying goodbye to friends and family over and over and over and over again.
I’m glad for this trip I’m taking to Thailand. The last big move I made was when I was 8 years old and we moved from Thailand to America, but as an 8 year old, I don’t think I ever registered that I was saying goodbye to people. This is the first big move I am making without my parents holding my hand and without my cool technicolor fanny pack to store my colored pencils and Bubblicious Bubble Gum. What I have recognized (possibly for the first time) is the extent of sadness that comes with saying goodbye. And yet, I am reminded of a really awesome verse in the Psalms…
“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning” Psalm 30:5
Are Third Culture Kids being taught how to say goodbye? Are they comfortable with crying, or are they told to just toughen up? How do we help TCKs with this very difficult and emotional process?
Have a great Thursday everyone! Next time you hear from me, I’ll be in Thailand (“The Land of Smiles”).