life with mila, Motherhood, Personal
comments 17

The first school trip

Mila, Cap-Breton (C) Karine Candice Köng

Mila, Cap-Breton (C) Karine Candice KöngMila (11 years old) is off to her first school trip.
To summarise how we both feel about this trip in a few words…She is excited, I’m not :-)

I should get used to it. I travel regularly and we’ve always had time apart since she was a toddler but I always miss her.
Being French and her dad a kiwi, we never had grand-parents or relatives in London to look after her during the Summer holidays. As I was blessed with a childhood by the beach on the Atlantic coast with memories of all the great things I did with my grandmother, it became obvious to me very early on, that she would be better off spending a month at my mum’s at the beach with a cousin Lily rather than being stuck in the city with us.

So from the age of 3, she started going to France. At the time she was only speaking English and I remember my dad saying she was a smart little thing because he could see she could understand everything. At the age of 5, she spent the first two weeks answering in English and then suddenly switched to French and from then on, she navigated between the two languages and became fluently from age 6 when she joined a French school.

I remembered these few first years being tough for both Steve and I. We missed her terribly and she was missing us too, yet we had to learn when it was the right time to skype her to get her full attention.

Mornings when the girls were watching cartoons while having breakfast, was never a good time. We couldn’t compete with the cartoons and each skype call left me sad, distressed and sometimes frustrated.

Bedtimes was awful for all of us. It was her down time and when she missed us the most so it often ended up in tears and was quite traumatic for everyone.

The best time was early afternoon between morning adventures and games with Lily and before she went on creating new adventures. She was excited, upbeat, funny and had plenty of things to tell us. To this day, she still sees our home in France as our family home rather than London.
Over the years, she grew into a self-assured, very social little girl and while I miss her terribly each time, as a mum, it’s important for me to raise a self-confident child. 

I don’t know about you but I found self-confidence quite late in life and once in a while, I still have doubts. Now in my forties, my attitude is changing. I don’t care about what people think of me and I don’t think about it. I focus on growing my own grass but as individuals, I think we regularly compared to each other, don’t we?!Mila at the beach, (C) Karine Candice KöngWhen Mila has doubts, I tell her to never put herself down, there will be plenty of people who will do that for her in life. I also tell her every single day that I love her and she is beautiful inside out. I know some people think these children may grow into spoiled, over confident brats but there is a difference between being told you are loved and feel loved and being given everything you ask for. I’m a firm believer that there isn’t such a thing like “receiving too much love” and a loved child is someone who will grow into a balanced, kind and caring human being, not matter how beautiful they are physically.

When Mila was away and we were in London, Steve and I took this time to reconnect and do more things together, go out on his bike the way we used to before Mila was born, go to the cinema, eat at the restaurant every night, get drunk, make love, walk around in the house naked, eat in bed, talk without being interrupted, cherish our times together…You know all the things you do when you’re young and free :-)

These days, I can’t go topless on the beach without Mila giving me a lecture…

So I’m not excited by her trip but I’m happy for her and while school trips are supposed to be a rite of passage giving children their first taste of independence, I think they are also a passage for parents to let go, to let children become who they are supposed to be. What do you think?


  1. Marie says

    This is such a lovely post. My youngest daughter is a little older than Mila (12) and has such issues with anxieties – no matter how much we reassure her not to ‘sweat the small stuff’! She too spends time with my parents in the New Forest each summer because, like your family, we live far from our families too (although not as far as New Zealand – my husband is from Ireland!) It is so nice for her to get away from the routine and spend time with her cousins, at the beach at the swimming pool (outdoor!) or just adventuring outside. We also spend time with Irish cousins each year in America and these times are all so precious and build strong family bonds.
    I’m hoping in time she will overcome her anxieties and instead learn to enjoy the good things while accepting that some bad things may happen, but to worry about them all the time won’t make any difference, except to make you miserable (something I need to learn too!).
    You are raising a confident, balanced child – nothing is to be gained from stressed parents trying to bring up bored (or stressed) children. Life needs its pleasures!

    • aw thank you Marie for your lovely comment.

      Have you tried using essential oils?
      My niece Lily went through a quite anxious period when her parents separated and Elodie used essential oils on her pillow every night. It seemed to work and calm her down.

  2. katies says

    i’ve been following you here and on IG for a while; just wanted to say i adore seeing the relationship you have with your daughter. it is authentic, empowering and full of grace and love. she is fortunate to have a mother like you – she will be a treasure to all in her life because you chose to put her personal growth first and because you make intentional choices to shape her strong character. thank you for sharing your family moments as well as your killer designs! ;)

    • Oh thank you very much Katie. I’m always nervous with these ‘motherhood’ posts and always super self-conscious about them. We fortunate too…If you ask my mum, she will tell you that Karma didn’t work because apparently I was a pain in the ass but I think, as much as I love my mum, we are very different in the way we show and share our emotions :-) I’m also very fortunate that although we don’t always agree on everything, when it comes to Mila, Steve and I have always been on the same page and are both dedicated to raise her as a self-confident child. Thanks again

  3. Nyree says

    I have a little tear, no joke, it’s real. I was sent away to board age 11 from overseas to England, first I was separated from my family but also my home. Skip on load of years and my own children (12,10,8) skip off merrily leaving me feeling all the separation anxiety I had as a child. I have to accept that I will never heal from the pain of the past but am so thankful to have the chance to try to do the right thing for my own children. As it was missing in my own life I say this to my own children every day ‘I love you loads, always have, always will’, it’s our little mantra and I know they will always remember it – they can’t hear it enough xxx

    • Oh Nyree, I’m sorry to hear that you are still experiencing separation anxiety :-( It must be hard to deal with.

      Have you tried to listen to relaxation tapes? As you know that this feeling is a thing of the past and you have a wonderful family who love you very much and 3 kids who sound pretty well adjusted like Mila, it may help you a bit…

  4. Sarah says

    My kids 16 and 12 are off to spend 2 weeks with their Grandmother in rural France this summer. We go every year but this time they are solo and travelling on the plane by themselves. We( my husband and I ) are off to Italy for a week! The first holiday alone since having children :) The kids are very relaxed about this and so am I . I worry more about their Grandmother alone with two rambunctious and frankly ravenous boys. However I am aware now more than ever that our time together as a family is limited. I try to stay in the moment enjoy them and deal with my sadness by imagining all the adventures I will have with my husband when we are alone again.

    • Yes that was the biggest thing for me…realising that we probably only had 9 years left with Mila at home before she goes to Uni and lives her own life…Time flies so quickly :-(

  5. What a beautiful blog post, she is a lucky girl to have such a strong, insightful mother.

    My daughter just got back from a week in France with school (she is 11), it’s not her first trip away, they had one last year with school but it was local. I found it really hard, the first day and night especially I had a really heavy heart. But the school posted regular photos of the group on twitter and seeing her happy and ok helped hugely. The week went quickly, she had a great time and came back tired and grumpy!

    There’s no way I would have done this as a child, I would have been so home sick and shy, it’s a great chance to enjoy some safe Independence and build some memories with their friends. But boy is it hard for us!

    Keep busy, make the most of the time and she’ll be back in your arms before you know it :) xx

    • Thanks Kate, I wish Mila’s school was familiar with social media (I should offer my services :-) but when it comes to the internet, France has always been a few steps behind the UK

  6. Trish O says

    My two boys are similar in age to your boys. I am also so aware that we only have a handful of years left before they are adults. My oldest will be there in a blink of the eye. I am trying to create as many family memories as I can while making sure my husband and I stay as connected as a couple as we can. It will be soon when it is just the two of us again.

    Thiis talk of letting kids find their independence is so important.

  7. Amanda says

    Such a lovely heartfelt post which so sums up the dilemma of parenting. We want to keep them close and protect them but to make them strong and capable we have to let them go sometimes! I have a friend who is sending her son (who must be in his early teens at the most) to live with his grandmother and a family friend in Sweden (she lives in NZ) so he can pursue his dream of playing professional sport. I can’t imagine the strength that would take! Mila is lucky to have such an amazing Mum.

    • Argh, My heart goes to your friend. I’m pretty sure she is going to find it really hard.
      Last year when Steve and Mila spent a year in France and I was still in London running my business was one of the hardest times I went through. The physical pain I felt each time I was leaving them was awful and even if I had the chance to travel back and forth every 2 weeks, I was a wreck without them but she was so happy in France doing all the sports she loves…

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