If You’re Sending Your Kid to Spain, Don’t Do it My Way

Several nights ago I woke up in a panic about sending my daughter to Spain for a month long study abroad program.  “What kind of foolish, irresponsible parent am I?” I berated myself as I lay in bed fretting and intermittently praying for the next hours.  We’ve been planning this trip since the middle of spring, but somehow I never realized that she’s potentially the only high school student in this program.  Nor did I realize she’d be living in dorms rather than with a host family.

I’m sending my somewhat naïve 17 year old to live in a dorm with college students in Spain, a country with free flowing alcohol and sultry 100 degree days.  And I haven’t yet mentioned boys.

Visions of alcohol poisoning, date rape, late night partying and poor decisions danced through my head.

How did I get in this position of knowing so little about a program I’m forking over a lot of money for?

Irresponsible parenting.

Back in the early spring, I told Ling she wasn’t allowed to laze around this summer before her senior year of high school.  “Get a job or find some summer language program.”

Of course studying abroad was way more appealing than working at McDonalds (parental mistake #1—don’t incentivize spending money rather than your child earning money), but she didn’t know how to start.   “Ask your teachers.”   I wanted her to take responsibility for herself and this whole process.

She sent random emails of programs, but I couldn’t handle the data.  “Make an Excel sheet and write in details with pros and cons so we can make an informed decision.”

Through all of this, whining ensued, “Most parents do this work for their kids.”

“Unfortunately for you, your parent has no capacity to do the work.  If you want to go, you need to do it.” (parental mistake #2—don’t encourage something you can’t manage)

We finally settled on a program that her Spanish teacher, with great enthusiasm, recommended (parental mistake #3—don’t trust other adults to make the decision if you don’t have time to talk to them).

Meanwhile, during a spring where I traveled constantly for work, where we did 2 college trips, and where my father-in-law passed away, I expected Ling to keep on top of the details (parental mistake #4–what was I thinking??).  Which meant I got calls from the program telling me we had missed deadline after deadline.  When I explained that my daughter was responsible for making sure information and payments were sent in, the gentleman on the phone clearly thought I was both crazy and incompetent.

Which I was already sensing myself.

I paid the late fees (parental mistake #5—of course she should have to pay late fees BUT she had no money)

We’ve spent the weekend:

  • Getting a SIM card so she can phone home or the police if anything bad happens (parental mistake #6—don’t wait until the weekend before your child leaves to figure out cell phones—we’re hoping it’s at her dorm when she arrives)
  • Buying toiletries & Supplies—who knew how little underwear this girl owns?
  • Trying to find contacts for college fellowships, or a church—(parental mistake #7—she asked me to do this months ago, I emailed a colleague who never emailed back and now my child has no spiritual support except for Jesus Himself)

So here we are.  Ling’s leaving in 8 hours.  She’s packed and almost ready.

When I’m not deathly afraid she’s going to get herself in some serious trouble or that thunder storms will make her miss her plane which means she’ll miss her ride to the university which means she’ll need to find her own way which will be difficult because she doesn’t yet have her Spanish SIM card, I’m elated.

She’s going to have an awesome time.

  • Helen Lee

    Where in Spain is she going? Ah, sounds like it’s all going to be incredibly stretching and faith-building for you all. =) Thanks for sharing and believe me, we are all making parental mistakes all the time in all of things we are doing. You are not alone! Prayers for you and Ling as she embarks on this great adventure!


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