Monday, August 29

TCK Ways of Being

Noah in Barbancourt, Haiti 2006 - 2.5 years old - 
Making the face you make when you are bummed to be the center of attention



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It has been written and confessed before. The first time someone told me my kids would view the world differently after we moved them to Haiti and then they explained what a "TCK" was to me, I totally dismissed and poo-pooed the whole idea.  

I was very much like, "Okay, you're weird and overly dramatic and you gave a label to something that doesn't need a label."

That person was our friend Sharon and she married one of Troy's good friends from high school. She grew up abroad and she knew what she was saying.  

I was the ignoramus.  (A recurring theme in my life.) 

It turns out that there really is something to this.   

We have watched our kids marvel at things that we don't marvel at and we have laughed our butts off at their amazing insights and funny commentary.  Their experiences differ from ours, and we cannot possibly experience things exactly as they are because we're not actively becoming autonomous individuals  -- as adults that made the choice to move them here, we have achieved agency and that alone gives us an entirely different experience living here. 

I did a great job of taking notes on their comments for three whole days of our summer trip to the USA.  Then I stopped being awesome and the other 42 days I did not take any notes.  (A recurring theme in my life.)


Out to eat at Claudia Sanders Dinner House in KY


Some quotes and observations from our TCKs during the early days :


  • The first stop for food was at a grocery store.  Chocolate milk was the drink of choice.
  • They were asked to guess what a whole tank of gas might cost in US dollars.  4 of them guessed $10 - one guessed $25
  • Hope was served Mac and Cheese  - I picked it out at the grocery store deli for her and brought it to her in the car.  While she was eating it she said, "Wait. I cannot remember. What is this stuff called again?"
  • We went to Target in our first 5 hours in America to buy sandals because Lydia didn't have any that fit, her one pair had broken.  She gasped in horror at the $66.61 price tag.  We turned it the right way for her, then she was less horrified.
  • As we boarded the plane, Phoebe said to Lydia, "Watch out for that lady that yelled at us last time!"  Phoebe assumed the year between her flights and the fact that she was on a different airline mattered not at all.  The same lady would be around and waiting to yell at her again.
  • As we packed to fly, Isaac nervously wondered if he would be allowed to fly with his allergy medicine.  (That is more Isaac and less TCK)
  • The flight attendant on the flight out of Haiti was totally enamored with our children. She wanted to hear everything they would share with her.  Hope told her that she was going to be singing in a wedding in Minnesota.  As we left the plane the flight attendant asked Hope to sing a little bit for her and the crew.  Hope did it.  (That shocked me. If I had asked she would have rolled her eyes so hard right out of her head.)
  • While we were driving on 75 through Georgia I was being the annoying Mom that tries to teach things and I said, "Kids, do you know what Georgia is known for?"  (Met with disinterested silence)  "Georgia is known for its peaches!"   Phoebe looked at me and said, "WHAT?  Is there sharks here too?"   P-eaches.  not  B-eaches.
  • At the first sit-down restaurant we went to we told the kids they had to order for themselves. We are guilty of doing everything for them in Haiti because of Kreyol and wanting to mainstream and simplify when we are out and about.  We know they actually need to learn something some day so we figured ordering their own food was a good start.  When it was Lydia's turn she said, "I will take an order of the hand dipped and battered juicy chicken tenders and the hand cut french fries".   Everyone else went with "Chicken tenders and fries" when they placed their order.
  • In Chicago we had them order and each pay for their own Chipotle.  I stood at the register and observed.  All five kids said the same thing to the cashier without knowing anyone else had said it.  When the cashier said $11 and whatever cents, each of our kids apologized for only having a $20 bill.  
  • At Barnes and Noble Lydia asked "the librarian" what book she would recommend to her. When she told me that I laughed and said, "You did?"  She said, "Mom, that is her job, why wouldn't I ask her?"  
  • Lydia kept marveling at how many places "have a hot water option". "In America so far, the pattern is that all the places have a hot water option." 
  • We went by a pet store called HoneyPets and Isaac got all strange-acting. I asked him what the deal was. He said, "I just think that is kind of an awkward name for a pet store, don't you?"  It turns out the he read their sign as "horny pets" -  that is pretty awkward.
  • On the road trip from Southern Florida to Minneapolis/St.Paul there was much awe over the lack of six hour traffic jams as well as marveling at the speed at which we were traveling. 



The other night in Port au Prince I took Lydia to the grocery store with me. (You may notice Lydia is constantly the one being quoted, it is because she is constantly the one talking and doing and going.)  As we checked out she asked if she could go put her little kid cart back where she found it. I said sure, go ahead and do that.  When she came back to me she said, "Well that was awkward. I will tell you in the car."   

Once we got in the car she said, "So I had to go all spider on this lady."  I laughed and said, "What does it mean to go all spider?"  She said, "You know how some spiders curl up in a ball and sort of act dead in order to get you to leave them alone?  That is what it means to go all spider."   I asked Lydie what the lady did to invoke "going spider".  

This is one of the crazy unique things we get to learn while living as minorities in Haiti.  It is ultimately good, and we learn a lot, but that doesn't mean it is irritation free.  It for sure helps us do a better job at empathizing with other minorities. 

The lady wanted to mess with Lydia's hair and just helped herself to touching Lydia's head and hair.  I asked Lydia if she knew the Kreyol to ask the lady to please ask permission before touching her.   Lydia said, "I do know that but wouldn't that be rude?"   It gave me a chance to inform Lydia that even though some things are culturally acceptable and that the appropriateness of touching her without permission might be up for debate in Haiti, that I thought it was totally okay for her to tell anyone that touches her to please ask her permission before they do that.  

There are really great things about growing up here. There are really odd things about growing up here.  There are really boring things about growing up here. There are really hard things about growing up here.  Sort of like growing up everywhere else, I suppose.  Different and the same all at once.