I have heard so many positive things about being a parent of a boarding school student. I have been through it twice before, so I have seen it all! The ups and downs and everything in between. However, this is what they don’t tell you about being a parent of a boarding school student.
It is the hardest decision you will ever make.
I don’t think there is a harder decision (other than life-threatening situations) you will have to make as a parent. It may be an easier decision if you have been through the experience yourself (only speculation here). Still, for me a daughter of an Italian migrant, it was like taking a part of my heart and chopping it up into little pieces. Having to sacrifice my happiness in replace of my children’s, a super hard selfless act in itself, something that is hard for others to understand.
Other parents will judge you
Although you know it comes with the territory of being a parent of a boarding school student; you still arent prepared for the personal attacks. Judgement is that just that, those who do not understand your decision or your predicament will be first to judge your choice and have a dig at your character. I have heard it all, from the passive-aggressive to the bold, outspoken negativity of our selection of education.
It is harder on the parent than the child
My understanding of those that judge parents who send their children to boarding school is that we are unable to parent our children during the tough teenage years. That we would instead wash our hands of it and send them off during the difficult times. It is far from the truth; I would love nothing better than to be there hugging a child in need during tough times or sitting up all night attending the needs of a sick child. Instead, I am crying when I hang up from a child who is homesick or bedridden from illness. And although I might not be sitting up all night tending to the needs of a sick child, I am up all night worrying about that ill child who is miles away. Or the last heartbreaking conversation I just had on the phone.
When we don’t hear from them, it’s a mixed bag of emotion.
Not hearing from your child (sometimes for days), is a mixed bag of emotions because we love that they are so busy and so happy that we aren’t hearing from them. On the other hand, we aren’t hearing from them and miss them terribly. The nightly phone calls are what keeps us going, and it also gives us the justification we need, that we have done the right thing by sending them away. Hearing their voices and hearing their day to day routine allows us the secret pleasure of knowing that they are happy with the choices we have made.
The quiet home when they leave is a terrible reminder that they are gone
The house when it is full is chaotic and full of busy children, noise, drama and loads of laughter. When they have gone, the house is sombre, tranquil and changes the mood entirely. It is a reminder that the children are living miles away and is a hard pill to swallow. Although a loud, crazy household can sometimes be draining, I love every minute of it and miss the quietness of our surroundings once they have gone.
The realisation that they are never coming home
Living abroad brings the complicated situation of our children never really coming back, throw in the added bonus of base in the country that they are attending boarding school. Then their home becomes the country they are boarding in and not the country we (as parents) reside in for the moment. Once school is over, they will head off to either further education, a gap year abroad or working fulltime. None of that (usually) means coming home to us.
Your child’s happiness is the most important thing of all.
When your child is unhappy or doesn’t like the experience of boarding, the decision to pull the pin or change schools is a difficult one. Do you listen to what your child has to say, or do you make the hard decision of getting them to ride the difficult times? The decision might be less complicated if your home is driving distance to the school, but when you are miles away from your child (let’s say another country for example), then you need to make a decision and stick with it.
I know that boarding school isn’t for everyone’s child. I know that boarding school for some is the only option. I hope that after reading this blog post that other parent can perhaps be a little more understanding of why we do what we do. From the outside, without understanding everyone’s storyboarding school can look like an easy option for parents, but for me (and me only) it is the hardest decision to make. Every phone I get from my children comes with it a different emotion; every time I leave the gates and drive off, I am left with a sense of emptiness that my child will never know.