I've said these things to an overseas mom.
Over the past 13 years of full time church ministry, I have absolutely said certain things to missionaries as they’ve walked through the doors of our church.
And they needed to be said, because they are encouraging and true!
However, now that I’m living this life, things look so different on this side. The reality doesn’t seem to match these phrases in this moment of parenting.
I was talking to some other moms in the line to pick up our kids from school here in France. We all had teary eyes and stressful faces. We had stories of our kids missing home and struggling in school. We had personal, painful moments of parenting—desperate moments of watching our kids walk this road with us, knowing our family is deep in the trenches of adjusting to life away from home. Each mom shared clips from bedtime or behavior issues or discipline problems or even heartbreaking cry fests.
I stood there and thought, All those things people say are true, but living it is a little bit harder.”
THINGS LIKE, “YOUR KIDS WILL ADJUST,” OR “KIDS ARE SO RESILIENT.”
They are, but watching them go through the adjustment process and talking them through being resilient is emotionally draining and painful to watch. It is a long process that most third-culture kids will go through daily. Adjusting to their new life is a long, tough, and gut-wrenching journey.
THINGS LIKE, “THINK OF THE WORLD EXPERIENCE YOUR KIDS WILL HAVE NOW THAT THEY’VE LIVED OVERSEAS!”
So true. Honestly, this is something I’m very thankful for, but again, the cost of that experience is high. The cost brings scars and struggles. Third-culture kids battle every day for that world experience. They navigate cultural and structural and relational struggles every time they walk out the door of their home.
THINGS LIKE, “KIDS LEARN LANGUAGE SO FAST; THEY’LL BE TALKING IN FRENCH WAY BEFORE YOU!”
Well, yes and no. As a homeschool mom I know their educational struggles. Knowing that their spelling, reading, phonics, and in fact, nearly everything school-wise is being delayed and even messed up is so hard. Yes, they will recover, and their brains are made to sort this all out and contain many languages correctly, but the first few months of that is difficult in ways I’d never have imagined. Hearing them say things like, “I can’t spell in English or French,” and “Mommy, I don’t remember how to sing my ABCs from America anymore,” and knowing it’s true. For now, their brains are setting aside one language to learn another. The song will come back, their spelling will sort itself out, and their phonics will find a middle ground, but it sure isn’t as easy as the phrase, “Kids learn language so fast.”
THINGS LIKE, “FAMILY WILL COME AND SEE YOU, WHICH WILL BE SO FUN FOR YOUR KIDS!”
We hope they can come; we pray God will open financial doors and allow for time off work and make travel possible for our families. Having your baby cry at bedtime and say, “I can’t go to sleep with my family on the other side of the ocean,” though, will tear your heart in two and make you hurt deeply at seeing the pain your kids feel at missing family back home. Waiting for travel opportunities, in all reality, seems much harder than knowing they will come at some point.
THINGS LIKE, “GOD HAS CALLED YOUR FAMILY TOGETHER IN MISSIONS!”
Oh yes—I agree with my whole heart! God has even spoken to my girls about missions, and they feel their call as well! So yes, this statement is utterly true. Again, though, keeping the call at the forefront of my heart is sometimes challenging. Remembering that God has a purpose and a plan in all of this can be a daily choice to trust that truth. As a missionary parent I must trust it myself and help my kids trust it as well. When the going gets tough, when they want to run to Grandma’s house and can’t, when they feel like they are stuck here, and when they forget God has called them and are struggling with questions like, “Why are we here again, so far from home?” then I must honestly and compassionately remind them that God has called us here as a family. I must remind them that He has a job for us to do for Him and He is with us in this process, no matter what we walk through. God has it all in His mighty hand. He helps kids see the eternal value of sacrifice and obedience. God teaches them that He is with them even when they don’t feel or see Him. Building faith, reading Scripture, and holding up hope for the missionary mom can be so very hard at the end of a long day.
Honestly, before we flew home, I hadn’t thought twice about these things people say. In fact, I believed each one. Now, though, I would rethink how I say those things. They might be true, but I now understand they are terribly difficult to live out with your kids.
Previously, I would have told a missionary mom how resilient her kids will be, how easily they will learn, and what a great life experience they will have. But now I just pray, “Lord, be with her as she parents those kids through the challenges ahead. Learning language is hard no matter how old you are, and walking cultural lines will be hard enough for her, let alone her children. Trying to adjust while helping her kids keep their hope and faith will test everything she knows about God and parenting. Give her strength and words that will multiply her children’s resilience in their new life. Battle the wars ahead on her behalf.”
Sometimes it is hard to connect with a missionary mom. It can be hard to see through her calling and her smiles and her stories to the woman who resides beneath all of what you see on a Sunday. But she is real. Her family is real.
SHE MIGHT JUST NEED SOMEONE TO SAY, “WOW, THAT MUST BE REALLY HARD.”
*With that said, don’t stop encouraging those missionary mommas! They still need to hear truth, but it would also help those back home to understand what those phrases really sound like to missionary moms who live them out with their kids on the field.
To view the original blog: http://ourgoodwinjourney.com/things-say-overseas-mom/