Sometimes our greatest parenting failures and successes are not ours at all. I was reading a book on mothering and found myself incredibly annoyed with the endless reminders, not only in that particular book but in so many parenting books, that our children’s words and actions are directly linked to their parents’ (usually Mom’s). While I do believe that the language I use and the attitudes I have very much influence my children, I just feel like Moms need a break. Stop telling me that every single moment of my day is the make or break moment in my child’s life. Yes, I am his first teacher and it is a great responsibility, but maybe my child is just in a bad mood and doesn’t want to be taught that day. Maybe another child is naturally pliant and sweet. Maybe boys will bounce off the walls no matter how often they are exposed to proper indoor behavior. Maybe no matter how kind my words, one of them possesses a unique talent for verbal assault. Maybe, just maybe they are individual human beings possessing their own attitudes, likes, and dislikes. I can take their human-ness as a defeat and drop myself into the pit of mother-guilt, or I can continue to model what I believe as best I can and pray, Lord have Mercy…, for the rest of it. Please stop telling me it’s all my fault, dear authors. My children are human and in as much need of Grace and Love as I am. It’s really not all my fault.
Being an MK is not all that bad. Months ago I read two different blog posts written from missionary parents to their children. I don’t remember the particular blogs. I had fallen down a rabbit hole of links, and just now spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to recreate that hole for your reading pleasure, but alas. The gist of these posts was that parents (missionaries) felt they need to apologize to their children (missionary kids i.e. MKs) for the life they were forcing upon said children. Letters of apology for making their MKs the odd ones out, for taking them far from family, friends, and everything they know, to live in a foreign land. Apologies for new languages, unknown cultures, and strange food.
As an MK, I could not agree with the tone of these posts. I have never once in my life regretted being an MK. Were there hard things? Yes. Were there new languages and unknown cultures? Every time we visited the U.S. there were! I think what the non-MK parent doesn’t understand is that the life of an MK is the only thing their children know. How can an MK wish for a life “back home” in the States if it is not in fact their home?
We had more than our fair share of good byes, we were far from family, every time we visited the U.S. we were the strange ones, we had to eat all kinds of strange foods at church potlucks (where were the tacos? the rajas con queso? why was “taco salad” considered Mexican? Key lime pie? Blech). Traveling as much as an MK does is exhausting. We drove thousands and thousands of miles during my childhood. Of course within those miles are side trips to beaches, the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, the Alamo, various favorite restaurants (Po’ Boys, Matehuala with its mini golf and breakfast fruit plates, tacos arabes, fresh seafood on the beach) and landmarks along the way. I learned how to sleep comfortably in any type of moving vehicle. We stayed in strange houses and places. We were guests at farms and ranches, large houses and small, places by lakes and places with their own pools. We were the odd ones out, often on display, yet the people staring at us, loved us intensely often before they even met us.
Being an MK means I not only have blood relatives, but I have extended family. Sure, I grew up far from aunts and uncles, but most of my relatives are really really strange (not you, of course!) I grew up with an enormous family of fellow MKs and their parents. I have so many missionary aunts and uncles they are hard to list. I grew up with countless Mexican family members. Because of my parents’ choice to go to the mission field I can go almost anywhere in the world today and find someone who knows the Hanna family. A “Six Degrees of Kenneth Hanna” if you will.
I grew up secure in the knowledge that even though we said many tearful good byes they would someday be followed by a very joyful hello. There are many people I may never see again in this life, but I will be happily reunited with them at the end. We will reunite in heaven and laugh at the hard. We’ll reminisce all those MK stories that only make sense to us.
So take heart, parents of MKs. Life is hard. Anywhere you live life is hard. You are giving your MKs an enormous gift. The gift of flexibility, taste for adventure and exotic things, and the gift of the family of God in all its foreign beauty.
I guess I don’t have another point. Captain America.