My oldest child has left the family fold to enter another as an exchange student. She didn’t go off to college like her friends. She is not able to come home for holidays, and we won’t be invited for Family Weekend. In fact, we have been asked not to visit at all. It is essential to her survival and her happiness to bond with her new family and adapt to life in a foreign country. I get all that, I was once an exchange student myself. But now I am the parent letting go for the next ten months. And things look different from this perspective.

I know I’ll miss her, I already do. But as every parent must ask as they wave goodbye is this: did I prepare my child? Is she ready to deal with difficulties far from my shoulder to lean on? Did I do everything I could, and did I do it right?

My guess is I didn’t. How could I have? I don’t know what she will face any more than my parents did. But I covered the bases. She knows how to work for a grade and how to research what she doesn’t know. She can cook a meal, sort laundry, and tell a hammer from a screwdriver. She knows a few outdoor survival skills, and that whining is not an option when things don’t go as expected. And, once burned, not to leave your wallet in a public bathroom, and expect it to be there when you realize your mistake!

Yet there is that life-passing-before-my-eyes feeling, and a list emerges with things I should have taught her, and things I couldn’t teach her, like how to fix a flat tire or to quit biting her fork…please. There is more that I can’t change, but it’s not too late for me to learn something. My job now is to listen when she calls, and not ask if she is still wearing her retainer at night, to appreciate that my work is done and to admire her beautiful wings.

It’s time to close my eyes and believe, so we can both jump.

21 thoughts on “Fully-fledged?

  1. I can tell from your heartfelt description that you HAVE done a wonderful job- the best you could do. Your daughter is blessed. She, I’m sure, will thrive in this new experience and you both will grow into this new stage of being mother/daughter.


  2. Like everyone else, it sounds like you prepared her well. She’ll learn many more lessons abroad. I hope she hangs onto her wallet. 🙂 Good luck adjusting too. Are you allowed to Skype and stuff? I studied in Italy and I remember those important calls, but was shielded from the cost my parents paid for them. Now, it seems like it would be less painful – cost wise anyway.


  3. ah, yes….you know i am in a similar boat, even though my son is only 1,5 hours drive south of here….but i did ask the same sort of questions- did i do enough to prepare him, did i love him enough and let him feel that, will some of those life lessons finally be remembered at the right moment….He does not have a host family to bond with, and i have resisted the urge to text him every half hour. I know my job is done, yet it is never really done.
    Thank you for writing it down so eloquently.


  4. I’m sure she’ll have a super time and it will definitely be character-building. I au paired in Paris and what a year that was. I still recall so much of it like the time I walked from south to north listening to the Beegees. It’s very character-building. best of luck to your daughter.


  5. Such a lovely post, Julie, and one I can relate to so well. I’ve got one off at college, another on the verge, kids driving all of a sudden – so many new and potentially hazardous things and after a point we can’t protect them and have to leave it up to them and hope we’ve taught them well. But it ain’t easy! 🙂


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