Our Third Culture Kids, while Americans, don't share in the traditional American experience. They're not really Russian either. Just ask them a simple question in Russian and you'll see that as displaced as they are from American culture, they are somehow even further removed from Russian. They are some kind of mix, a breed of their own, I guess. And as they get older, so do the tensions between cultures intensify and the lack of a sense of belonging increases.
For example, our TCKs don't really celebrate Halloween. I know a lot of kids who don't celebrate Halloween, so this isn't particularly remarkable; but our kids don't celebrate out of principle, they don't celebrate because nobody really does here either, they don't even know what it is. Besides, where could I get costume supplies? What would I do with a pile of Russian candies that nobody in our home really likes? How many years in a row can I wear my Starbucks apron and go to parties as a barista?
In some ways, it saddens me that my children miss out on some of the fun traditions and activities which made my childhood so memorable and exciting. There are some things which almost all Americans know about and love about childhood: trick-or-treating, little league, kickball, neighborhood bbq's, school dances, etc. Add or take away whatever you like, but these are the unspoken tokens of our American culture that we don't recognize to be fundamental until they're taken away.
Are my children going to be ok? Is there damage being done to them by depriving them of these more traditional, American things? Though I want to say, no, no serious damage can seriously come from missing out on the occasional Halloween party, I need to simultaneously say yes. Yes, loosening the ties of some kind of overarching identity makes it difficult for children (and adults) to understand their environment, to connect to it, and to find community and common ground with others. In our decision to move to Russia, I'm afraid our children (and their grandparents) are the ones who will suffer the most.
We understand what we're missing. We can evaluate life in the U.S. and measure it against life here and analyze the costs and benefits. Our children cannot, nor will they really ever be able to do so.
However, how much of our past American experience is realistically replicable? How much of our American culture still exists in the same way it did back when we were living it? My ideal high school experience is not only tied to a specific place in Colorado (Air Academy High School,) but it also took place during a specific time in history (*ahem 15 years ago - surely that can't be right!) So much has changed. So.much.has.changed. No matter where I live and send my children to school, even if we bought my old childhood home in Colorado Springs and sent our kids to good ol' Air Academy, my high school experience is non-replicable. Those days, those years are gone. And with them, much of the possibility of reliving the nostalgia that we attribute to the traditional American experience. America as I know it, is different, some for the better, some for the worse, but different all the same.
It's this idea that gives me some kind of peace of mind. Everybody is navigating. Everybody is adapting. Nothing is as it was for anybody. Besides, not all aspects of the American experience are positive. Children seem older than I was when I was a child. They know more. They have iPhones. They're not me. Their experience is not mine.
My children will not experience that traditional American upbringing I remember in all its glory. But neither will anybody else's.
And, for now, that makes it easier.