Week nine : Empty nest or blank canvas?

I’ve sat and stared at this blank page all day.

Empty nest = blank canvas

Yesterday my son (16) joined my daughter (17) at boarding school for the first time. Before moving to Hong Kong, the only people I knew who sent their kids to boarding school were the royal family! I thought it was a completely separate world from me and mine. Both hubby’s family and my family are working class people made good (love meritocracy) and my Dad had even gone to university. Boarding school was what I read about in Enid Blyton books. Not that I had anything against them, they just weren’t for us, why would or should they be? Then we moved to Hong Kong. Before long, I was mixing with career expats who moved countries every two or so years and had to deal with the impact that had on their children’s education especially as they got older and exams began to loom. A whole new world opened up to me and I began to think in a very different way.

Our daughter asked us (aged 14) if she could go. She liked her school in Hong Kong and is definitely a home bird but felt that she wasn’t getting the opportunities both academically and for her interest in sports that one particular school in the UK could offer. We found ourselves being led by her on this journey and she started in Year 10 (fourth form, UK system) and hasn’t looked back since. She starts her last year today and I can honestly say it has been the best thing for her. The hardest part was only seeing her three times a year, Christmas, Easter and summer. Because of strict rules in the UK about internet in bedrooms we were not able to Skype or Face Time but we could text and phone and did most days.

So now we are back in the UK, why did my son go to boarding school? The simple answer is that we felt it was the easiest way to transition him back to the UK. It’s hard for Third Culture Kids to go back “home” where they look and sound the same but are actually very different. They don’t know the current slang, they aren’t aware of the latest trends or TV shows and it’s not their home. So he’s gone to a school where there are plenty of overseas students including expat kids. Funnily enough one of his very best friends started in the same year as him yesterday and we met up with four other Hong Kong families that we knew which made both he and I feel right at home.

There are so many articles and blogs on Third Culture Kids so if you’re interested, take a look at these to get you started

http://expatchild.com/third-culture-kids/

http://whenyoureathirdculturekid.tumblr.com

http://tckid.com

http://www.internations.org/magazine/the-difficulty-of-life-as-a-third-culture-kid-15288

And this great video

http://vimeo.com/41264088

When we left the UK almost twelve years ago, one of the first books I bought was “Daughters of Britannia” by Katie Hickman, daughter of a British diplomat. She “describes the unusual and often difficult lives of Foreign Service spouses. Tracking these feisty transplants from the 17th century to the present, she shows how these very significant others coped with everything from tropical epidemics to kidnappings to small household budgets.” These women didn’t have the benefit of air travel, electronic communications and often sent their children away never to see them again. What we have nowadays is far less harrowing yet parting from a child is never easy no matter how well prepared both parties are. I miss them terribly, especially today being the first day they are away but I know they are both happy and in a place that will help them flourish and grow, not because it’s boarding school but because it is where they fit in and feel comfortable and I wish them both every happiness. My job as a parent is to make sure they are equipped with the skills they need to face the outside world and I know I’ve done that to the best of my ability. My love and prayers go with them both, always and to every other family going through the same thing. And of course, before too long they will be back for the half-term break, eating me out of house and home and I wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/883230.Daughters_of_Britannia

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