I get to see my kids in less than two days. I don’t think I need to say that I’m excited.
My teenage twins go to boarding school two countries away. Whenever I write that, I feel the need to defend our family’s decision but I won’t, not here. Also, whenever I write that, I feel like I could follow it up with a litany of reasons boarding school is hard, that I could instead title this post 6 Terrible Things about Boarding School. But I won’t do that here either.
One of the hardest things to do in all of life, and yet one of the most beneficial things to do, is to maintain a heart of thankfulness. In the spirit of that thankfulness (and because I get to see them so soon) here are 6 really great things about boarding school.
Physical Affection. My teenagers still hug me. In front of their friends and at school. Even their friends hug me, big hulking senior boys I’ve known since they were in first grade and high school girls I’ve only recently met but who live with my daughter in the dorm. As precious as chubby toddler arms are around a parent’s neck, nothing compares to a 14-year old boy still willing to joyfully throw his arms around me and squeeze, to say, “I love you, mom.” And then run off to the field to roughhouse and play rugby with his friends, who have also just hugged their mothers.
Family time. Time together is infinitely precious, even to the teens. During term breaks I don’t have to argue with the family that we should take a day and go to the beach. We sit down together almost every single day of term break for lunch and dinner, which totals almost the same number of shared meals as the average American family. We have focused, intentional conversations and game nights. They play dress-up and laser-gun battles with their little sister and lavish attention on her. Very little time is wasted on silly arguments or nitpicking.
Cheers for Mom. My home-cooking never tasted so good. After weeks on end of cafeteria food, anything I put on the table at mealtime is greeted with grins and thanks and sometimes even cheers, double when dessert is involved.
Independence and Courage. The Washington Post had a recent article about helicopter parenting in which millennials brought their parents along to job interviews. My teenagers don’t even bring me along on international flights. They know how to handle themselves with airport security, customs control, at restaurants, in taxi cabs. They know how to ask for help when they need it and they are brave enough to do so, no matter what country they are in.
Confidence. My kids aren’t afraid of challenges or situations outside their comfort zone. They have traveled internationally and have been responsible for their passports, their visas, their money. They haven’t always been successful in these responsibilities and things have gotten lost, they’ve made mistakes. But they’ve also learned to take responsibility for those mistakes, that making a mistake isn’t the end of the world or a definitive aspect of who they are as a person.
Problem solving. I can’t step into every situation to resolve it for them. I can’t intervene, as much as I would like to, when they have a conflict with a roommate or a teacher. I can’t hover over their homework or do it for them or urge them to remember to put it into their backpack in the morning. This means they have to learn how to address their weaknesses of timeliness, relationships, study habits on their own. Of course we talk on the phone and Skype and offer suggestions and make plans together. But hovering is not an option.
The skills my teens are learning at boarding school involve more than academics or increased sports and musical opportunities. They are the skills they will need to function and thrive in college and employment, in social relationships, and in an increasingly global world.
Of course, some of these areas are things I long to be involved in – like homework problem solving or to experience travel together, it isn’t easy and we often reevaluate our choice of boarding school. But so far, both kids are thriving, I’m proud of them, and our family remains close. I’m practicing thankfulness every day.
What painful thing can you practice thankfulness for today?