Testimonial from a mother of an ‘Outbound Exchange Student’
My daughter grew up a lot on her exchange – she dealt with a hard situation or two, managed her own resources, came through dengue fever, managed a problem at the Argentinian border (good times), made some great friends, learned another language and learned how to manage her own affairs without me picking up the slack for her. For her to grow in this way she needed to be away because I am like an Oak tree when it comes to being a mother.
I have spent my energy making sure my little nuts in the ground got only the best so they would germinate. I sheltered them from the harshest sun with my branches so they would not burn, I took the hardest rain on my leaves so it would drip gently on them so they would not be beat down or broken, and I was loosening the soil under them with my roots so they would have the best environment to build a good root ball. Rotary exchange did me the favour of transplanting my little sprout to another part of the forest so she could fend for herself and in so doing get stronger and bigger. She was still protected by the other trees so she did not get trampled but she had to take a little bit of the hotter sun and the heavier rain on her own – which also meant she got more of the energy she needed to grow up. Now my sprout is a sapling with her own branches and leaves. I get it. This would never have happened under my protective canopy, under this big old oak of a mother.
When she comes home she will probably still try to plant herself close enough for us to remain friends but she will need space to spread her own branches and maybe someday plant her own little nut in the ground. I will have to trim back my branches to make sure she can spread out as much as she needs without going too far from me. The pruning back may hurt me a little bit, but it is necessary and I am sure it will be good for us both in the long run. A good trim will ensure that I won’t choke her sun or starve her of the rain, and my branches will lighten up so my load is easier - I am, after all getting older so a good storm could have broken one of my extended limbs and killed everything under me.
Proper adjustment to the new life will ensure we both stay healthy for the long haul – it will only hurt for a little while – as I adjust. All in all, this has been a positive experience for both Ellie and I – growing and learning and dealing with a long distance relationship.
The second nut I planted is a bit of a tough one so it may take a little more time than the first one did- one down one to go!
Funny thing, she was talking about how much she will miss her host mom and dad and then said apologetically I miss you too mom – I don’t want to hurt your feelings… I was surprised because it was like she felt guilty for loving another family. Poor kid, here she is leaving people she has grown to love and torturing herself with guilt to think she is taking something form me for feeling that way. It was a very interesting conversation, me giving her permission to feel what she is feeling and knowing I am good with it.
So many lessons still to learn.
An "outbound" Mom