Mila (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?!When 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?