Parenting – Not for the Faint of Heart
A week ago, my husband and I put our youngest (21-year-old daughter Mary) on a plane to Madrid, Spain for a month to “study abroad” as they say. I tend to be a worrier, so it takes some major denial on my part to be able to function thinking about that long flight – and how far away she is. The fact that she was so unprepared to go actually kind of helped me work through my own anxiety.
Mary is master of denial herself – maybe it’s genetic. I remember when she was in elementary school, we saw a cat that had been run over in the road and, while I commented on how sad that was, she turned around in her seat and insisted that, “No, the cat had gotten up.” Right. So I understand her pretty well.
Every time I would bring this trip up during the semester, she would put me off. She obviously didn’t want to talk about it, so I began to get the idea that it was some lame, unplanned, crazy trip. And I was mad at her for not being more excited. I went from thinking, “I shouldn’t expect her to go if she doesn’t want to and this trip seems a little loose anyway” to “How can she not be excited at this opportunity.” Then I realized that it wasn’t the college’s lack of preparation, it was my daughter. She was doing her denial thing. I knew she must be feeling pretty nervous about this trip, so I would have to figure out a way to be encouraging without being annoying, which is hard for me.
So when she got home last week, I started trying to get her psychologically prepared by buying stuff – some new clothes can put a positive spin on anything, right? It helped. A little. She packed (including her stuffed moose, Moosie, that she’s slept with from the time my mom gave him to her when she was 1 year old). She’s a good packer. Very efficient and neat – the opposite of her sister. Then she got sick. Really sick – some kind of chest cold, sinus crud. I don’t know, but it didn’t help.
So, you know how it is with kids. You have to wait until they’re ready to talk. The night before she was to leave, we finally got down to all her worries. “I’ll be homesick; I’m quiet. I won’t make any friends because I’m shy. I’ll be lonely….” That kind of stuff. Fear of the unknown. Well, the truth is that she is quiet, but there’s nothing wrong with that and I assured her that there would be other students that would be looking for friendships. And it was a good way to go to Europe for the first time – living in a dorm, single room with your own bathroom, classes, three meals a day, structure – as my sister-in-law said, if she got too homesick, she could just go to bed after dinner. I assured her that a month would go by fast and that she could handle it. And I took her to a quick care place in Dallas the morning she left, so she could get some medicine.
So, exactly a week later, all is well! She likes all the people from her college who are with her. She loves the food. She likes the classes and has no problem understanding the Spanish. She gets homesick and misses her boyfriend, but she’s dealing with it. She told me today that the other people seem to be more homesick than she is because they’re constantly skyping, emailing and texting friends and family back here. Sometimes you can be too connected.
This will be a great experience for her, and I know she’s ready. We just weren’t completely sure until she got there. But what can we ever be completely sure about? I’m glad neither of us gave in to our anxiety.