“May we keep him? Pleeease?”
My sister presented my mother with a pathetic-looking, flea-bitten kitten that she had found on the side of the road on the way home from our school in Gibraltar.
Fast forward a year, and Oscar was living with us, almost 12,000 miles away, on the other side of the world, having become a beloved and very spoiled pet, and accompanying my family home to New Zealand at the end of my father’s assignment. Oscar went on to live for 20-plus years in luxury and could easily have earned the title of Wellington’s Most Pampered Cat.
As TCKs, we carry all sorts of reminders of our previous lives with us, whether intentional or not, and these help us to create our own very personal and unique stories.
These stories may include pets, like Oscar, who have become part of the family and whom we could never contemplate leaving behind, as well as friends from all over the world with whom we have shared different stages of our lives. Our stories include recipes and favorite foods from other cultures that we incorporate into our menus, carrying them on in a unique mix of cuisines at our own family’s dinner tables. They may include a second, or even a third, language, or even a distinctive accent, a hybrid of numerous accents from the different countries in which we have grown up.
It is important to carry such things on with us in a world that often feels temporary and disjointed when we change the place that we call home every few years.
They connect each of the places we live, making our lives a continuing story rather than a series of isolated experiences. As a TCK, it can be tempting to leave behind your old life completely, almost as if it never happened, and start afresh in your new one. Sometimes we do this to protect ourselves from the difficulty of saying good-bye to the people and things to which we have become attached.
By bringing something from your previous home, you give your children a sense of continuity, familiarity, security, and confidence, and you provide them with a context for their lives and memories of all of their experiences.
Through Oscar, my sister and I maintained an important psychological tie with Gibraltar, the place we had called home throughout our formative teenage years; he was a constant reminder of our life there and a continuation of our story.
By Emma Hoffman
Emma Hoffman is an experienced Bennett consultant who currently lives outside of Philadelphia. She is a true TCK (Third Culture Kid) and has lived all over the world. Her experiences as a student in many different countries, an educator, and a parent bring a great deal of empathy and knowledge to each family she works with.
Emma also has a fantastic sense of humor, which is always helpful when working with families and students!
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Bennett International Education Consultancy works directly with hundreds of families each year across the globe. We support families by helping them make informed decisions about the best-fit schools for their children; with our guidance, they secure placement in preschools, private day schools, public/state schools, boarding schools, colleges & universities, including schools with particular programs, such as special needs support.