Tuesday 9 April 2019

Vive l'indépendence!

This time last week I dropped off my 15-year old daughter at school for her French exchange trip. In the dark, lamp-lit morning (4:30am), seeing her onto the school coach felt like a surreal experience. In a haze of orange street-light, I was sending off  into the unknown, to stay with a family I'd never met before. Instinctively, I didn't want to let her go, even though my head was telling me this was a good opportunity for her.

My daughter at ease with her new independence!
On the quiet drive home, I gave myself a stern pep talk. As a good parent, I needed to allow my daughter her independence and the freedom to try out new experiences.

Perhaps it was her nervousness at leaving me, or it was the ridiculously early hour, but I had to make a conscious effort to override my emotions; to flick a mental switch. Fortunately for everyone, sense prevailed over sensibility. I resisted the temptation to turn round and bundle her back into the car.

A week on, she has had a fantastically enriching week, after bonding with her French family and her school friends who accompanied her on the trip. Our family WhatsApp group has been inundated with photos of all the beautiful French towns she has visited - cathedrals, medieval ramparts and cobbled streets. In her latest text message, she felt 'sad' to say goodbye to her hosts.

In a few hours, I'll be picking her up at the airport. I can't wait to hug her and bring her home for the holidays. I'm the first to admit that I find it hard to be parted from my children, but equally I don't want to clip their wings. And, despite my neediness, I feel vicarious pleasure as they go out into the world and sample its delights on their own terms. 

It has been a good week for her, but also a valuable one for me. Despite my instinct to cling on, I've recognised how important it is to loosen the apron strings. It's a small parenting triumph in fact: learning to pull off this balancing trick of holding on and letting go... Hard as it is, I know it's healthy for both of us. Vive l'indépendence!

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