Third culture kid (TCK) or third culture individual (TCI) are terms used to refer to children raised in a culture other than their parents' (or the culture of the country given on the child's passport, where they are legally considered native) for a significant part of their early development years.The most common TCKs are children of missionaries, ex-patriots (aka, ex-pats), and military children, as well as children of the adults attached to embassies.
I have 6 TCKs, also known as "military brats".
So how many brats are there?In the United States today there are approximately 700,000 children ages six to eighteen classified as military youth. The truth is that no one really knows which is surprising for a country obsessed with polls and statistics. No one has kept a running count of the number of children raised in the U.S. military. The Department of Defense (DoD) school system approximates that since 1946 it has educated four million brats overseas or about 20-30% of the total brat population. One guesstimate would be a total of at least 12-20 million brats.
‘This wouldn’t include the children of National Guard, embassy and Foreign Service personnel, DoD civilian employees, missionary families and mobile corporate families,’ notes Jump Cut journalist George T. Marshall, ‘ – all of who share more in common with military brats than with their fellow citizens.’ (source)While we live in a community of military families, our children go to schools with a LOT of non-military-affiliated people...and there is the rub.
Because so few Americans actually serve or have served in the military, many of their children have NO CLUE as to the culture or experiences our children have grown up experiencing.
One of my children was interacting with a friend in the past few days, lamenting the loss of yet another friend who didn't "get it"...and wrote some profound words describing it....
"They don't understand, they don't get it. They're the ones who are constantly hanging out with someone new every day, while I'm stuck at home, sitting by myself. That's what makes me feel like the replaceable one. They just don't get it...they don't understand what it's like to constantly have to try and make new friends just to have them s**t on you. They don't get having to move every few years to a completely new place with no one you know. They don't get not knowing the culture or the area or anything about this new place you're just thrown into. They don't understand having social anxiety and not being able to start a simple conversation with someone no matter how badly you want to. They don't understand having the people that mean the most to you live on the other side of the country or sometimes the other side of the world...they don't understand how f'ing easy they have it. They've lived in the same place their whole lives, the same house, the same neighborhood, the same people. They have everything handed to them, and it's so frustrating that they don't see how much it hurts when they talk about how they got to grow up with someone, how they get to know every inch and crevice of the city they live in. I feel replaceable because I am, people do it all the time. I leave and move out of state, not by choice but because I'm forced ot and their lives go on, they don't miss me, they don't try to visit, they don't get excited when I visit. I'm just a memory to them. My whole life I've been second to everyone...everyone who I think loves me, everyone who I think is my friend. They always find someone who's better. Because that's just me. Replaceable.