Raising My Kids Abroad: Is It Cool Or Just Crazy?Kristy Carlson
I am two days away from putting my kids back on a plane (ok several planes, 30-hours-worth of planes to be exact) to Burundi, East Africa after an ultra-short trip to visit our American family in the good ol’ U.S. of A. It’s that time again. Massive Amazon orders are arriving at the house, the mad packing has begun, the kids are crying already and I am wondering all over again… are we a little bit cool or just plain crazy because of our decision to raise them (just about) the furthest distance away from the place where they hold a passport?
I do dream that one day my boys will turn into suave men capable of sweeping people off their feet with their eloquent use of the French language and their adventurous stories of growing up in the heart of Africa. Of course (in this dream) they recall that we raised them in a home full of the arts and sciences. They have become musical and lyrical with a keen love of the outdoors and a fierce passion for important global issues. My future kids sound like AMAZING people, huh?
Back to reality… They will definitely always be amazing in my book no matter what their futures hold, but what if all our African escapades make them feel disconnected and rootless? What if they aren’t capable of connecting with a home culture? It’s a real thing people, Wiki says so! It’s called Cultural Jet Lag and to quote Wikipedia, “The expression cultural jet lag (is) the phenomenon of partial socialization in adults born from bi-cultural/national unions and whose childhood was characterized by nomadic displacement during key personality developmental stages. Jet symbolically designates international travel as the cause, cultural lag the resulting disconnect observed in these patients.
This is where I step back to take one big momma chill pill. To be honest… my internal soul-beat says that there is a beauty in the (sometimes hard) journey of living abroad. Raising my boys in the thick of Africa is something that I would not change right now… even if that means that we have a couple of Cultural Let-laggers on our hands. It’s true that they don’t quite understand where the sidewalk ends and the road begins. And yes, they pee in the front yard while facing the neighbors without a care in the world. I know that they don’t quite fit in everywhere, and yet they totally belong anywhere that we call home. I hope that one day, despite any Cultural Jet-Lag, that they become people who are connecting in real ways with the people around them. Wherever their feet take them, I hope they feel the earth between their toes as they go.
What do you think? Is raising kids abroad crazy or cool?