“Be Brave.” It is a tagline we see on t-shirts, jewelry and the message of pop-songs galore. There seems to be a sudden obsession with the idea of being “brave.” We hear it used in many scenarios. We overuse it to the point it has lost some of it’s meaning, similar to words like “love” and “awesome.” She was brave for shopping on Black Friday. He was brave when he asked for extra jalapeños. That actress was so brave to post a selfie on Instagram with no make-up on.
All this use (or rather misuse) of the word “brave” has really got me thinking. What does this word really mean? Surely, I want to possess this attribute and develop it in my children. I want my TCKs (third culture kids) to be courageous when faced with opposition. To be willing to go the extra distance when others won’t. I desire for them to be brave, in the true sense of the word.
But how do I cultivate this character in my children? My knee jerk reaction when my children are faced with any conflict is to shield and protect them. I see that happening in my home culture perpetually to the point that parents hover over the their children in a frantic cloud of worry and fear. I mean, I get it. It’s hard to see our babies in pain. And boy, do we as expats have so many “reasons” to helicopter over our kids. The constant cheek pinching and photo taking is enough to send this mama bird into a tizzy. I’m resisting though, and trying to see the end picture in my children’s life. I’m raising adults, after all. I want them to be fearless adults, not wimpy broken birds who can’t fly from the nest.
So, back to my thinking…how do I help my children develop this characteristic? In all my contemplating, I’ve come to the conclusion there are five main areas in which I want to cultivate bravery in my children.
And those areas are:
- In Language.
I heard that learning language for children was easy. Negative. I found that even though my two oldest children were barely 2 years old and 9 months old when we moved overseas, language learning was not simple or smooth. Depending on personality, gender, and inner motivation, all my children are at different stages of language aquisition. And even the best of the best often makes mistakes. Their friends gaze at them with confused looks and they are the reaccurent objects of laughter. But when I witness my children trying to communicate using Tarzan type speech and hand motions similar to that of a monkey, I celebrate. I congratulate them. Language is complicated. One must commit and be willing to look a fool to possess it. Try more. Learn more. Make more mistakes. Repeat again and again. Until they are confident, not only in language but in the trying.
- In Culture.
Our host culture is famous for its food. Gooey curries served on plates of rice, eaten with your hands. Fish heads, chicken feet and chili peppers are as much of the culture as anything. I want my kids to risk burning their mouth. I want them to taste the durian even though it smells like dirty socks. I want them to risk getting lice for the sake of being part of the wedding ceremony. I want them to run through the rice fields, make necklaces out of sweet potato leaves and experience all that our host country has to offer. I want them to dare to be different than their cousins and friends in America. I want their diverse cultural experiences to shape them into interesting spirited adults.
- In Relationships.
We know that TCKs are branded with a life of good-byes. Change is the only thing that is normal to my TCKs. Their best friends change with each annual organizational meeting. A close friend goes home, and my daughter never got to say good-bye. It happens swift and often, and it hurts. But is life really life without rich relationships and friendships? I would say, no! I know my kids will be familiar with loneliness and heartache. I know that they will not be able to experience living near their best friend from kindergarten until high school. That is okay. I will help them through the pain and encourage them to keep putting themselves out there. On top of that, we add local friends, and that is a whole other type of hurting. I tell them to keep saying hello. Keep making friends. I encourage them to enjoy each relationship, even if the friendship is only for a season.
- In Experiences.
I allow my husband to take my son hiking on ancient water ducts that tower over the ground, even though I am deathly afraid of heights. I want my kids to leap off the cliffs into the river and hike through the jungle with full knowledge we will be picking leeches off of them in the evening. There are so many chances to take risks where we live and I want to teach them how to take calculated ones. Jump far. Walk straight. Carry a stick just in case you need to slap a monkey. What a world we live in and what a blessing to actually experience it!
- In Faith.
I live in an area where 98.9% of the people around us have a different faith. My children learn about other religions through experience. They watch it, see it, breath it and wrestle with it. I can’t shelter my children in a youth building every night of the week. It isn’t an option. Their faith is being worked out in their little hearts as they struggle through hard questions that I often don’t have the answers to. But I want them to work it out so that, at the end of the grappling, they can be strong in who they are in the Lord. I’ll be there, of course, to guide them, love them and help them. But in the end, I desire for them to grab onto the Lord white knuckled, never letting go. Jumping in when He says to, without thinking twice. Being risk-takers where it really matters!
As I look over my concise little five point list, I see a really good definition for “brave.” It looks nice and tidy but we know it isn’t. For this type of life to be worked out, there will be a struggle. I see the obvious: my kids do as I do, not as I say. Eesh! Guess I’ve got some braving to do. If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go scale a mountain.
How are you cultivating a brave heart in your TCK? Are there any stories or examples you can share with us on the subject?