I often think it takes a special person to befriend a TCK. The other day, I gathered with a bunch of women by the pool, most of whom were acquaintances and some were brand new faces. We chatted topics of work, men, family, and passed a baby around, as women do. This sweet baby girl was born to a family with two older siblings, 7 and 9. I held her, adored her, and blurted to the mother of this precious child, whom I had never met before,
“So what happened, did the condom break, or something?”
It wasn’t until my friend chuckled nervously next to me, quickly apologizing for the utter inappropriate comment on my behalf, before I even recognized I was flirting with social boundaries.
I hate to lump all TCKs in my category of stupidity, but generally, TCKs defy conventional conversation protocol. We are sometimes confused by differing sets of social norms in the various cultures we’ve been exposed to, and oftentimes we simply don’t care to abide by the rules. We prefer skipping over the niceties and get to the “meat and bones” of relationships. These relationships happen to us because we are gifted with special people with tremendous grace; like my new friend who glossed over my social faux pas and made me belly-ache laugh with her story of their beautiful “accident”.
Without grace, we can’t thrive. Here are five ways we need you, non-TCKs, to extend your grace:
- Look beyond our social blunders and don’t stop looking until you find the courage it took to reach out to you. We might not quite know how to initiate or sustain a friendship in your context because we are used to other contexts, but we are trying, and that takes some guts. Shrug off the awkward comment and indulge us with our direct questions. We will find common ground if you give us some time to stumble our way there. I promise those initial experiences become great fodder for jokes at our expense when we take our trips down memory lane.
- Allow us to become too attached too soon or distance ourselves too abruptly. This comes from a life time of good byes. An investment in people has ended in heartbreak for us. Often. We have experimented with both giving our all, knowing a goodbye looms in the horizon, or pretending not to give a crap. We are unsure, sometimes, how much to give of our heart, lest a piece of it gets taken away from us halfway around the globe.
- Manage our intensity. We are too much, sometimes, it’s okay to say it. We live a lot of life through our friends around the world. One day we might hear of a tragedy in the Middle East, which to you may be exotic foreign news, but to us it’s our fourth grade best friend’s hometown. This may result in a total mental breakdown or what appears to be heartless nonchalance. We care deeply about issues: political, religious, international issues because they are often not issues but people to us. People we grew up with and love dearly.
- Invite and include us relentlessly. I try, sometimes daily, to warn people about myself. I lay my cards out in the open from the get go, citing my messy background and crazy journeys. I am floored and eternally grateful for the ones who stick around despite it all to include me. You save me every day, and would you please keep doing it? God knows us TCKs need to be included, having known what it feels like to be an outsider for a lifetime.
- Embrace our intertwined identities. Nothing short of pure unadulterated grace is necessary to bear with us through our identity crises. We wrestle with it as a child through adulthood, and stepping into new roles in society further complicate the entangling web of self introspection. Don’t be deceived by our uncanny ability to shape shift into whatever context we are in – it may be we are comfortable in many settings, but always the edginess of our both-and identities irritate our souls like a pesky tag on a T-shirt.
In return, you have our jaw dropping awe of your deep patience and persistent love. I promise it won’t be easy, but Grace is never cheap, and when extended, never wasted.
Next week, I will write on how TCKs extend grace in our relationships, stay tuned.