One of my kids has an overnight field trip in a few weeks. This kid came home telling me about it, gave me the paperwork and said, “I don’t want to go, but the teacher said the parents get to make the decision.”
I received all this information last week and knew the form was due on Monday. I held off on filling out the form because I wanted to have a chance to talk to this kid about the outing.
My kids, like all expat kids who have moved countries this year, have been through a lot. So have the kids who have been left behind, but we can discuss that another time. I understand that a two-night, three-day field trip, so early in the school year, might feel a bit overwhelming for any kid, but I comprehend why it feels harder for my expat kid.
I had briefly discussed our kid’s attendance on this outing with my husband, and we both agreed that the kid should attend. I had decided that I would be willing to pick my kid up if there was a big issue, but they had to at least try. I understood the anxiety, but I also knew that a few months down the road, kids would be talking about it, and my kid would likely be sad to have missed out. Also, I think trips like these are important bonding opportunities as well as opportunities to face and overcome our fears.
Here is where I made the foolish mistake. Over the weekend, I forgot to talk to this kid about the outing. I only remembered the form just before my kid was about to leave for school. Then, to make my stupid mistake worse, I rushed to fill it out, and as my kid was ready to walk out the door, I told them that I had let the teacher know they would be attending.
Well, the tears and the pushback I got were not a surprise. I did my best to console my kid, but they were not having any of it. So, I dropped what I was doing and accompanied the kid to school, where I talked to the teacher and explained the situation so that she would also have understanding and compassion for how my kid was entering the classroom that day. The teacher assured me that my kid was not the only one feeling anxiety and worry about the trip, but she was confident that it would be a good experience.
My first mistake was not making it a priority to find the time to have this discussion. To be fair to myself, we did spend the weekend just trying to get a semblance of a house together since our shipment hasn’t arrived and won’t for a few weeks. My second, and bigger mistake, was letting my own anxiety around not submitting the form on time rush me into doing it just before we rushed out the door to school.
My kid was really upset and crying as we headed out the door to school. I held their hand, validated this kid’s concerns, acknowledged all the challenges this kid was feeling, and explained some of the reasons behind why I thought it was a good idea.
I always say this parenting gig is tough, and so often it can highlight our own weaknesses. Being willing to acknowledge our shortcomings so we can show up differently in the future is our greatest gift to our kids.
I had a message from another expat parent sharing some hard pieces of this life. I’d love to hear from you too; what are the aspects of expat parenting that you find most challenging?
Pssstttt… if you are feeling like you messed up, like I was feeling, just know that you are doing great. This parenting thing is never perfect, but showing up and admitting (even if only to yourself) how you can change and do things differently in the future is more than many parents are doing. YOU are amazing, and your kid is so lucky to have you.