My dad is Chinese, my mom is American. I was raised in the Philippines, yet not immersed in the culture until my college years. I don’t look Chinese, American, or Filipino, but that depends on where I am. For a few years I went to a Chinese school then I was homeschooled. After, I went to an American school in the Philippines then to Ateneo De Manila University.
Someone told me recently that there is a term for these kinds of people. “Oh, you are a TCK,” he said. “What’s that?” I asked. “Third Culture Kid.”
I didnt know there was such a term, but it did seem to make sense. That’s why I never felt like I belonged to any race or country. But then I also thought, I am not a third culture kid either.
Wikipedia defines culture (the sociological term) as “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization, or group.” Another website defines the word upbringing as “the systematic, purposeful influence of the adult members of a family and family ways on the child.” Therefore, cultural upbringing is the culture your parents influence you to have.
So what is my cultural upbringing?
I believe my parents raised my four siblings and I to be “first-culture” kids. It was a culture where God was first and center of everything. From our sense of identity, to our relationships with one other, to our value system and morality, to our world-view, this first culture had the greatest impact on who we were and are today. It was not about being Filipino, Chinese or American, but having an allegiance to God above all things.
We were taught to,”Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) This God-first culture was so ingrained in us that even when some of us made wrong choices growing up, we reset back to our default mode as Christ-followers.
To this day, my siblings and I are so grateful for parents who gave us this first culture upbringing. With God’s help, we are passing on this culture to our own children.
Raising first culture kids begins with being first culture parents–committed followers of Jesus who disciple out children to be the same, making the Bible our life manual by studying it together and obeying it, and pursuing, as a family, the fruits of the spirit–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.
Finally, it also means giving our children an eternal perspective. I like what Hebrews 11:10 says about Abraham…”For he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”
My son, Elijah, recently told me as we were walking through the parking lot, “Mom, I had a dream about heaven. It was so amazing. I can’t wait to go there someday!”
When he said this I was reminded that the earth really isn’t our final home. To paraphrase my first culture parents, “We are citizens of heaven who are in transit.”