Thursday, March 15, 2012

We're not in Kansas A-ny-more

I've been reading about Senior Class trips on quite a few blogs in recent weeks and that has me thinking about the trips my girls took as high school seniors. I'm sure some folks reading here will gasp and shake their heads and question my wisdom in allowing their participation in these trips. To be honest, if you'd told me before I moved overseas about some of the travel I'd be okay with I'd have said you were crazy.

If you're a regular reader here you know my girls attended high school in England. An international school comprised of students from over 50 countries. A melting pot of cultures, religions, traditions, customs, beliefs, and nationalities.

As I discovered pretty quickly after moving to Europe with a just turned 15 year old and an almost 13 year old, 'kids' are viewed as adults at a much earlier age than they are here in America. They ride public transport alone in the elementary years, take gap years to work and travel around the globe before heading off to university, and in many countries must commit to a career path before they can even be admitted to a university program. In America many, if not most, kids go off to college and eventually come to a decision about a career. Some graduate still not knowing what they want to do.

One of the things (there's quite a list actually) that caught me off guard in those first few months in England was the notion of chaperones. In the US we don't send high school kids on so much as two hour field trip without an army of chaperones and an FBI check. Less than one week after arriving in England my then 8th grader went on a three day pony trekking trip to Wales with her entire grade (60 kids). Their teachers went along too but no parents. No one- adult-for-every-four-kids sort of plan. They kinda looked at me funny in the Middle School office when in my jet lagged stupor I asked the school secretary about chaperones. "Oh sure" she said, 'The four subject teachers are going." Alrighty then.

Flash forward three years and umpteen school trips later. Daughter1 had been to Poland with a theatre group, lived with a complete stranger in Provence for a week, stayed in a hostel in Berlin with her fellow art students, explored Barcelona with a few classmates on another art trip, spent a weekend in Terazin, the former Concentration camp an hour outside of Prague, again with her theatre group, not to mention two trips to Romania with Young Life, both involving 14+hour bus rides thru the mountains of Transylvania. Parents did not attend any of the school trips.

A week before her high school graduation Daughter1 and her classmates took their Senior Trip. They spent a week beachside at an all inclusive resort in Side, Turkey. There were no adults present. Well, other than the kids most of whom were 18.

Did I like this?

Even after three years of world travel a part of me hated the very idea of it. This was my little girl we were talking about. But another part of me was so excited for my daughter. And I suppose a small part of me wished I were 18 years old and on my way to a beach in Turkey with friends.

Did I worry?

Some. It comes quite naturally to me but God in His infinite wisdom used those years in England to teach me a few things in this department.

Did I pray fervently each and every day?

Did they all come back in one piece.

Could something have happened?

Here's the thing-something can always happen. I'm not implying we don't do our very best to protect our children but somewhere along the way they need to develop independence. Travel, especially foreign travel, is huge in this regard. Three short months after this trip I would be kissing my little girl goodbye as she settled into her dorm room on one side of the ocean while I winged my way back to our home on the other side of the ocean. It was in large part her high school experience that elevated her confidence to a level that allowed her to embrace and enjoy this new and exciting, but slightly scary, experience called college. Me too.

Two years later and daughter2's turn rolled around.
Aiya Napa Cyprus this time.

I still have never been to Cyprus.
Or Turkey for that matter.
Five years of travel under our belts now but still, it's my baby.

Daughter2 entered this world with an independent streak but swim meets in Cairo and Paris and Volleyball matches in Antwerp and Frankfut and a week spent living with a stranger in Santiago de Compostela Spain, and two trips to Romania and two more to Bulgaria with Young Life all helped boost and cement her natural confidence.

Three short months after her week in Cyprus there I was again, kissing my baby goodbye on one continent and flying back across the ocean to a newly empty nest. As kids enter the young adult years we are not ever present in the physical sense but I suspect (and hope) that I am ever present in their head. That I have passed along wisdom and good judgement and most importantly a desire to know God's will for their lives and to follow Him.

They took those senior trips and made memories. They also made decisions, some excellent and some that were maybe something less than excellent, but then that's how we learn and grow and become adults. We parents go merrily along our way, raising our children and then BAM, what feels like all of a sudden, we're the crossroad where childhood and adulthood intersect. I think successful parenting means there will come a point when we have to extract ourselves from some aspects of our children's lives and trust that we've given them what they need to meet the challenges of adulthood.

I know there will be people reading this who will think -No way! People who will say 'never! ever! ever! would I allow my 'kids' to traipse around the globe like you did.' All I can say is once upon a time I was that parent. But that was before I was standing smack dab in the middle of opportunities that I never imagined would cross our radar. Would I hold on ever so tightly to children who over time had become more adult than child? Would I keep trying to make an imperfect world a perfect place or would I begin gently releasing them into a world that is less than perfect but which is held in place by One who is perfect? Would I move from the spot I'd held since their births, front and center, to a place beside and behind? No less important a role, still an encourager, sounding board, voice of reason and experience, and their biggest fan?

My girls will tell you that one of the phrases uttered most often around our house during their teen years was this-'perception matters'. Whether you're alone in a crowd of friends on a beach in Cyprus or on a college campus an ocean away from all that you call home, it matters. Perception matters. I'm sure as they are reading that sentence they hear my voice saying it. I like that.

I've never been a parent who goes along with everything under the sun because its the latest thing. I pray long and hard about things large and small in this adventure we call parenting. And it is an adventure. I'm thankful every day for the many life lessons we all learned while living abroad. As it turned out God had more than a few things to say to me.

I had no idea.


  1. Joyce,
    I don't know if I'd ever muster up the courage to allow my two girls to do what your girls have done, but what an AMAZING time they must have had! I can't even imagine! Think of all the stories they'll have to share with their kids one day! I'm certain that their hearts will be forever grateful that you gave them wings to take a leap of faith!

  2. Like Horace said, "Carpe diem" (Seize the day) but Ovid used the word in the sense of, "to enjoy, seize, use, make use of", Your daughter's lives will be so much richer for the experiences they have had. I am a firm believer, after thought and prayer, of taking advantage of an opportunity, if it arises.As a mother it is a comfort to know that God will watch over them no matter where they are.

  3. Yep, it certainly is a leap of faith, this parenting thing. The fact that I am certain 'I am in their head' hopefully BEFORE most choices are made makes me a tad more confident about those choices they make. :)
    "Perception Matters" and "Guilty By Association" were, and still are often voiced here at the Castle.
    I still quiver at the thought of Son 2 alone in Barcelona for 'just an hour or so' but happy he got the opportunity.
    Is there ANY part of parenting that's just easy? Hmm.

  4. WOW what amazing trips they have had as you let go a little and let them enjoy it all. I bet that is why they are doing so well now. God can see what our kids are doing when we can't. He took care of them.

  5. I think your girls were lucky to have you and your hubby as parents. You taught them well to seize the moment and yet be well grounded at the same time. Well done Joyce!

  6. There is nowhere that we can be 100% sure that our kids will be 100% safe. We have to remember that our kids are on loan to us from a God who loves them even more than we do. While some of our jobs are to love, guide, protect and teach them, another is to release them when it's time ... and to know when it is time. Like any job, that's not always an easy thing to do (ask me how I know ... my daughter will soon be 37), but we can trust that God will give us the wisdom and strength.

  7. Love this! What exciting memories. We cannot always protect our kids, but thats hard to accept.

    I could not decide what to make for dinner tonight, then I found your teriyaki chicken and baked rice recipes. So thats what we are having!

  8. What amazing adventures your girls had. You have given them roots and you have given them wings and that is the best a parent can do for a child.

  9. So enjoyed this post Joyce and what wonderful experiences your girls have had thus far. Our kids did a lot of traveling without in the US and our daughter did go to Turkey two different times to visit her then missionary boyfriend. Yikes! Like you, I did not allow myself to be consumed with worry but just prayed God's hedge of protection over them. I'm sure your girls feel very privileged to have had these opportunities. Always enjoy your entries.

  10. I think that "children" have to practice making decisions before they're totally let loose on the world. I'm sure that your girls are better adults for the way you decided to handle things. And those sound like some awesome trips!

  11. As I read this post, I kept thinking that I want to be just like you...A Mom who knows that it's God that's really in control...and trust HIM enough to let them go and become themselves! My family had a similar saying, "Remember to whom you belong." That had a twofold Christ and to our family!

  12. I wish my kids could have opportunities like that. I'm sure you made your decisions based on your girls and their inclinations as well. Had they been hare-brained kids prone to rolling in drunk at 2 a.m. and barely passing their classes, you wouldn't have sent them. As they earn trust, you loosen the leash.

  13. My daughter's senior trip consisted of only teachers no parents! When we lived in Germany my daughter's class traveled to Holland and other parents of Germany and I'm sure if we had stayed it would have grown from that....It's a different mind set there and we were less worried in a land we didn't speak the language or know many was a weird feeling and hard to explain unless you have lived it. Your daughter's experiences surly have helped them to navigate big cities such as Dc and be more independent young ladies!

  14. I try to never pass judgement as I know each child is an individual. Your girls seem to be very mature for their age and what wonderful travel experiences they have, which is an education in it's self. They've seen far more of the world than I've ever seen! My youngest dd went to Guademala on a missions trip when she was 15. She caught swine flu while she was there and had a frightening, scary time. Still, I suppose it's a trip she'll never forget! ;-)

  15. When I visited England I was amazed at the number of small children on public transport. My only daughter went to Moldova last year for the month of June to work in an orphanage. This year she is going back.....they put their house on the market....I better make this summer count....they want to move there. I raised her for this....but somehow....God is now raising me for this.

  16. I feel very lucky that my parents allowed me to stretch my wings and travel when I was growing up, and I like to think it fostered the courage I needed to make big life decisions when I got older.

  17. wow! what an interesting life! lucky you!!

  18. What a time the must have had! Can I go back in time and be your daughter? I like a lot of people have said believe our job is to give them roots (in Christ) and wings (to follow his plan)... Am I totally freaking out as my girlies fly the coop young? I was, now I have the peace that the Lord gives you when you know you are on the right path!

  19. "Taken" came to mind when I was reading this! Guess it's a good thing the movie hadn't come out yet, huh? :)

  20. Your girls have certainly had some wonderful travel opportunities. However, my chest grew tight thinking about them being so far away from you. I'm funny like that, it's a good thing you weren't :)

  21. You're a wise mama! Travel is such a good way to help kids grow up and get the larger picture. I think I would have felt like you did at first but then let them go, too. Our family loves travelling and how it broadens one's mind. I think I would have had trouble letting my children stay in a stranger's house though. There's so many crazy people out there waiting to prey on beautiful young girls. Just glad it all turned out well.

  22. Joyce:
    Your daughters definitely had some terrific adventures. I would have been hard put at first to let them go, even though "that's the way they do it across the ocean." I'm sure your daughters are really thankful for the opportunities they've had. You're a good, thoughtful Mom!