Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What if my kids don't thrive in every culture they are in?

Wow! There is nothing that causes me more anxiety than that question: "What if my kids don't thrive in every culture they are in?" Every missionary kid's life looks different. Every country/culture is different. Different parts of a country are different. That means there is no magic formula or list of steps to help your kid thrive as a missionary kid. 

Thriving to me means (whether reasonable or not)
1. Understanding and valuing the culture inside our home. (Biblical world view)
2. The States not feeling completely foreign to you. (English)
3. Participating in the culture outside of our house. (Spanish)
4. Participating in the culture at our church and around the farm. (Kekchi)

If we lived closer to the capital my kids could go to a good Spanish school, or maybe an international school all in English where they would have lots of extracurricular activities. None of that is available to us and wishing is a waste of time and sows seeds of discontentment.  Reality is we live in the most rural part of a developing country. I think putting my kids in a school here in our town would cause more problems than it would solve. I could write a paragraph about why that is, but unless you have lived in a culture similar to our town I don't know if you would understand.

What if we lived somewhere with a big missionary community. My kids could probably get by just having close English friendships, but they still wouldn't be able to participate in the world around them. Besides, we don't know anyone close to us anyway with kids that has made longer than a 3 year commitment to be here. We have said goodbye so many times I feel like, why even put forth the effort to build these relationships... we still do though.
Everything is easier with Eden right now. She isn't a twin, so she doesn't have a buddy to talk to in English outside of our house. There are 2 little girls who live behind our house whose parents' are Christians (Jimmy led their dad and one of them to the Lord). I love them and their mom. I don't think Eden is going to have as many problems at this point in her life; she has Spanish friends everywhere.

The boys though... those boys! I pray every day that God would send them good Christian friends. We live on the outskirts of town, so there aren't too many houses around us yet and the boys we have met so far around our house are kind of naughty and their parents don't know where they are or care what they are doing. It's hard anyway in the culture in our town to make true two-way friendships. (I feel like it is easier with Kekchi people.) It hurts when you realize someone is just trying to take advantage, not share in a friendship. I don't want that for my boys.

Every time Jimmy and I meet a nice couple I ask if they have kids and if we can set up a play date. I'm a crazy friend stalker! They do not offer any sports for any children under 8 within an hour of us, so a soccer team isn't an option for a while. I think that will be wonderful once it is possible! They have good friends at church, but they are 9-12 years in age, not really peers. Also Kekchi kids don't learn Spanish until they have gone to school a couple years, so at this point their true peers don't even speak Spanish yet. 

Our church was all in Spanish and my boys were doing really well participating in Sunday School, but once we moved it down to the farm property, everyone who attends is Kekchi. Now, the only service that is in Spanish is the youth service. My kids sit through a Kekchi kids Sunday school class where they are completely lost unless I sit in the back and translate a little for them. 

So what do you do? Do you hire a Kekchi tutor to come teach them after their hour of Spanish everyday? (By the way, Kekchi tutors don't exist.) 

Spanish tutors are a difficulty in itself. My boys are on their 4th tutor. It's hard to find someone who knows how to teach (better if they don't speak any English),shows up, and doesn't apply for the job just to milk something from my family.

When you have a birthday party, do you have it in English, Spanish, Kekchi or mixed? It is really difficult to have mixed get-togethers just because someone is going to be left out. You don't really do the same things or even eat the same things with all of those people.

They have to read in English, be fluent in Spanish and kind of comfortable in Kekchi... all before they turn 6, or at least that's what it feels like in my head. Also, I am doing everything I can for them not to believe the States is this magical place where you get to play in snow, there are no bug bites, everyone speaks English, Mommy and Daddy don't have to work, you visit Lego Land or some equivalent on a monthly basis, everyone acts like they are so excited to see you, complete strangers give you presents, and you visit your grandparents everyday. I don't want them to yearn for the States.

Are you feeling the pressure with me yet? And don't forget the pressure of not putting this pressure on my kids!

They have this awesome life here where they get to understand something outside of their tiny little lives. They get to spend a lot more time with their dad than the average kid in the States. They also understand the "why". They like to call themselves missionaries to. I would never assign that to them, but that is the conclusion they came to. They want to help us with the purpose God gave us here. 

My kids are content little children right now, but I feel we have to diligently stay on this path of helping our kids build true relationships in this country, inside and outside of our ministry. I want them to be comfortable and functional here there and everywhere. I ask every single day for God to help our kids and direct us in the decisions we make regarding them. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be a missionary kid... I'm kind of a mess as a missionary mom! 

Every day is a lesson in faith for me. I wish I could type it in the tone in which Jimmy says it to me, 
"(Well) that's faith!" When God led us to Petén, He knew that later He would give us kids. They were never separate from His plan. So this is what faith looks like to a crazy control freak: There is an obedience part of faith (Deut 4:1-4), that's usually the easier part for me. It's the other part I struggle with, the one where instead of coming up with "what if's" (Like what if when they are teenagers they hate it here, how am I going to prevent that.) you look back and come up with "what He has done", all the ways in the past God has been faithful to our family (I Sam 12:24; Phil 4:6-7). (Like this time or this time, or this time) I'm still more comfortable with strategy than faith, but I'm looking at God. I'm going to keep looking at Him until I get this faith thing down.
{Or this one}
 So that's a little glimpse into the mind of this missionary mom, trying to help her kids navigate life in a second and third culture in a rural part of a foreign country, while learning (maybe just trying, still working on the learning) to put her faith in the One who is with us here.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

2 Weeks of Memories

MaG and G (Jimmy's parents) wanted to see their grandchildren, so they bought us all tickets to fly to KS for 2 weeks. We have the best families! I am so thankful for this gift of time with them! 

 It was the end of the semester, so we skipped out of the last 3 days of finals week. I already shared about our wonderful drive to the capital, haha! Well we ended up with less than 3 hours of sleep before arriving at the airport at 4 in the morning. Jimmy had this great idea that if we flew early, it was like we got another whole day with MaG and G. We ended up having really nice flights and our kiddos were sweethearts. Just sheer eagerness to see MaG and G got them through that day!
{Waiting for our luggage}

The kiddos have 5 aunts and uncles that they got to spend time with! They ended up getting pretty spoiled. 
Seriously, we are so blessed to have the family we do!
{Aunt Robin & Jill}
{Reading with Aunt Jill}
{5Guys with Uncle Jon}
{There was lots of Lego building!}
{And water activities}
 Their Aunts and Uncles spent so much quality time with them. Jonah, Silas, and Eden feel very connected to them. They are constantly telling me stories they remember and wanting to skype with them! They're the best extended family a missionary kid could ask for!
{Silas & Uncle Jojo}
Now they even have a cousin!

Sweet Lennon! I think she and Eden will grow up to be great friends!
They had lots of fun experiences!
{Eden's first pedicure!}
{Fishing with MaG & Uncle Joe!}
MaG took them all to the cowboy store. Jonah and Silas wear their boots everywhere!!!
{Put put for the first time}
{Go Carts for the first time!}
On one of our last days we all went to the zoo together. 
{Uncle Jon, Aunt Robin, & Eden}
They got to spend time with their great grandparents too. 
{Eden playing games with Great Grandpa Jim}
{Great Grandma Helen, Great Grandpa Jim and Uncle Jojo}
{Spending time with Great Grandpa Tractor!}

Silas' favorite memory were mornings on the deck with MaG and G. He's our little early riser.  
{Saying goodbye at the airport}
 Thank you MaG and G for all of the wonderful memories we got to make with you guys! We all are very close, even though we're far away.
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