Are there any two words more filled with trepidation for a middle schooler than “new school”? Well, maybe “avocado prices,” but that’s probably more for the moms.
Plop that middle schooler in a new country, state and city, and you’ve got a recipe for a confused kid.
According to sociologist David C. Pollock,
“A Third Culture Kid is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any.”
Though they’re American citizens, one child has never lived here, the other one doesn’t remember living here, and neither have ever been to a U.S. school.
Have you ever felt like an outsider?
He wanted me to walk him in, so we avoided the drop-off line and pulled into the parking lot.
“Oh, Buddy—let’s get a picture in front of your new mascot!” Public schools in Mexico don’t have mascots so he didn’t understand the big deal, but he agreed with a sigh and set his backpack down.
His metal water bottle popped out, clanked onto the concrete so all could hear and rolled into the drop-off lane. Not familiar with such lanes, I stepped down to grab the bottle with my peripheral vision focused on my son and our impending photo.
The minivan mama obviously didn’t anticipate the actions of a new girl from Baja, and kept accelerating until my right arm and her bumper almost got friendly. One glorious set of brakes and three surrounding gasps later, I acted like that was normal where I’m from.
Have you ever been so embarrassed you acted like you weren’t?
I was hoping his first day wasn’t destined to be as rough as his brother’s first day a decade ago:
Since we love new challenges and looking like morons, we decided we’d try to swing through the infamous unloading zone. I left the States with a pre-schooler so I never ventured through one, and we didn’t have such things in Porvenir, but I immediately noticed there were three lanes, not one.
‘Cause I’m observant like that.
But only one lane is for drop-off. Hence the black and red lines keeping me up against the curb, right?
The über-friendly crossing guard waved cars through, but nobody seemed to unload; they all just kept driving. I pulled up to the gate, stopped at the portable stop sign and smiled at the guy in the vest. Brock was about to jump out when I got the wave.
Not the, “You look new. Welcome to our school!” wave…. More like the “This is not where you stop, lady. Please keep moving forward.” wave.
So I’m not supposed to stop at the stop sign?
“Can you let me out here, Mom?”
“Apparently not, Son.”
And around the loop we went.
“Where are you going, Mom?”
“I’m not sure, but I think I’ll just copy the lady in front of me.”
How often do you fake it till you make it?
“Did you eat with the same guys again today?”
“Yes, but I feel like I have no freedom at lunch. We all have to sit down so we don’t choke. We never had to do that in Porvenir—they just let us walk around and play and eat all at the same time. Why are they so worried about us? I only choke like ten times a year and it’s just on water!”
“Other than that was it a good day?”
“It just felt like a lot of learning and no recess.”
Do You Know How to Pledge?
When our family drove into our old town I pointed out the familiar white words on the side of the hill.
I liked that the phrase was still there and asked our youngest, “Do you know what that means, Bud?”
“Uhh… something about Billy Graham?”
“I’ll give you a hint. Indivisible…?”
I turned to the backseat and smiled. “Nothin’?”
During the second week of school he came home and declared, “We have to say the Pledge of Allegiance every day!”
Pleased to hear that still existed in public school I asked, “Oh, cool—do you know it now?”
“I think so. I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America. One nation, for which it stands… with justice… wait. I don’t know.”
Talking about his brother’s high school he asked, “It goes Freshmen, Sophomore, Junior, Senior, right?”
“Freshmen? Why does it have to just be men? Why isn’t it Freshmen and Fresh-ladies?”
So when I say everything is new, I mean Every. Single. Thing.
“Are stop lights on timers? Why are we just sitting here?”
“These trash cans are so cool—they have wheels!”
“It seems like people waste a lot of food up here.”
“Why don’t we have to wear uniforms? I don’t think I have five tops and bottoms that go together.”
“The strip of grass between the road and the sidewalk where no one ever walks? What’s it for?”
“How come people put wallpaper on their walls?”
“We get Thanksgiving off, right? A whole week? Yesssss!”
That November break might be one of the keys to helping these third culture kids like their new country. That and a massive grocery store down the street.
Bonus: Morning Music
For the past six years I’ve been walking Brock to school and it has always taken us five minutes or less. Now we’re driving for 20. It feels long, but we chat, zone out, and usually rock out at least once a day to something that probably makes fellow drivers wonder why the heck we’re so bubbly.
Lately it’s been because of Toby Mac and Hollyn’s Lights Shine Bright. Better crank your volume and get ready to move–with a Jamaican flair and sweet beat, it’s a rad reminder to be lights in dark places, especially at school.
And in traffic.
Oh, sweet Jesus… help this country girl from the trees and dirt keep it between the lines.