Large and exposed tree roots visable above ground


It’s the plague of the “TCK” isn’t it.  Kids growing up cross-culturally have been branded with a scarlet letter R.

I get it.  It’s an understandable, tangible way to illustrate some of the challenges that come with this life and on one level it makes tremendous sense.  It goes hand in hand with all of the other bullet points in the “downsides” column.

  • I can’t answer the question “where are you from?”
  • I don’t know where “home” is.
  • I move a lot.
  • Even when I stay everyone else moves a lot.
  • I say goodbye way too much.
  • I see my grandparents like once every two years.


I get it . . . but I hate it and I actually couldn’t disagree more.  Maybe it’s a matter of semantics but if that is the case could we please reconsider the wording?


Let’s deconstruct it a bit.


ROOTLESS means “without roots.”  Agreed?

So the metaphor presumes that we are talking about something that NEEDS roots and DOES NOT have them.  We’re comparing TCK’s to a tree not a car . . . or a cow . . . or a crescent wrench.

That’s how metaphors work.

SO . . . if we are calling my kid rootless we are insinuating that they NEED some roots (I have no argument with that part of the point).  But IF we are metaphoring about a tree which is rootless we have to stay true to the metaphor all the way through.

Fallen log, Olympic National ParkA tree without roots . . . dies.  Period.

It shrivels up.

Dries out.

Withers away.

Falls down when the wind blows.


That, my friends, is where the metaphor breaks down.  Why you ask?  Take a look around.  There are TCK’s all over the globe who are the polar opposite of shriveled.  Not all of them thrive but MANY do.  There are also LOADS of monocultural kids whose homebase has never once changed and are about as dried out and shriveled up as you can get.


There is so much more to having roots than staying in one place.


To be rootless means you have been cut off from what gives you nourishment, connection and strength.  That’s the function of a root (you can look it up).

I would agree that my kids have been cut off from SOME of the things that CAN bring them nourishment, connection and strength . . . but not ALL.  Not by a long shot.  Not even close.

In fact I think they are tapped into sources that I never dreamed about in my monocultural childhood.  Beyond that they are FAR MORE transplantable than I ever was.  You could pick them up and drop them anywhere and they will thrive.


My kids (and TCK’s everywhere) are ROOTFUL.  Filled with roots.  Lot’s of them.  Fast growing, healthy roots.  So much so that they will never dry out moving from one spot to another.  There will be challenges to be sure, but that’s the thing about roots . . . challenges make them stronger.

They still need to be tapped into the things that feed them . . . AND THEY ARE.

  • A family that looks and acts the same in any living space, airport, hotel or hemisphere.
  • Routines and traditions that don’t change and can travel anywhere.
  • Solid friends that they have met along the way and stay connected to.
  • Core values that drive every decision.
  • A deeper grasp of fluid community than they ever would have picked up elsewhere.

I love geographical stability (being planted in one spot and never moving).  It can and does produce some really solid lives.  In fact some of my greatest nourishment, connection and strength has come as a direct result of being tapped into people who have barely moved in their lifetime.

It’s a good way to do things well . . . BUT IT’S NOT THE ONLY WAY.

Living cross-culturally CAN be every bit as rootful.


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