The French have this rather strange (to us) view that children should go off into the wild (chaperoned) world in order to grow up. There is a school in Toulouse that sends them off to a five day camp when they are just 6 years old through the school. Half of the parents have small conniptions to which the teachers sniff their noses and tell them, in not so many words, to man up.
Our school is a French school, and while they are generally more inclined to go along with the American culture in order not to ruffle feathers, they still hold tight to some French beliefs. They just practice them a bit later on.
But the belief that the child must leave the wings of the over-protective mother still holds true and so, in third grade, they take them all (at the cost of the parent) to Quebec to be 'immersed in French'.
Since most of the parent chaperones were non-French speaking Americans I highly doubt that whole immersing thing, but I digress.
Little Queenie went off to the big land north of the USA to a place called Canada, emphasis on the CA if you are Queenie and feel you need to correct people on something. She left on a Sunday and came back on a Friday and all the days in between I woke up thinking how she slept, if she was warm enough and if she was eating enough. The time during the day I honestly didn't feel worried. There was no reason to worry. She was fine and in good hands.
I did ponder the notion that all the parents were talking about as they kissed their kids good-bye, though. This notion that they would return to us so much more mature, so changed.
I want her to mature. I want her to grow. I am not a mother who wants her kids to stay little all the time because I find it a waste of energy to wish for. They will grow. So better spend your time hoping their are maturing rather than wishing you could change the never ending tick of the clock. I walked into the airport and almost expected a halo of transformation hovering around her last Friday when they landed. She was proud of herself, yes. She had a wonderful time, yes. She was ready to come home, yes.
But huge change? I am still waiting for it. Immediately upon her sisters coming home the competitive spirit manifested itself, the arguing, the fighting, the bossing around. The only big change I saw was that she wanted to play video games all of a sudden. Apparently, even though it was on the list of things to NOT bring, half of the kids brought their iPads and, as we all know, Minecraft is the ultimate game right now. And I say WE to include me as though I knew that. I didn't. But now I do. At least it is the game to play if you go to our school and are in the third grade....
It is a huge step for a kid to sleep away from their parents for five nights, to be away from them during those days as well and to be alright. She made a huge step that just two years ago we would never have thought she would make without kicking and screaming. The biggest plus ever was that she had such a great time that we would not feel badly recommending she go to other camps where she might sleep away from home. Or leave her longer with her grandparents, etc. She is capable of 'fending for herself' in terms of asking adults questions, saying she is cold or hungry and making friends with kids she didn't really know. She had some grown up conversations with her friends in which she found out one of the girls' father had died and she pondered what that meant in general as well as for her friend. There is always a bit of a settling affect when one comes home from a trip, especially one in which the rest of the people haven't been on, and we saw that this weekend. But only in moments between telling her to leave off her sister and to stop fighting or she will never earn the right to buy Minecraft. EVER.
I have to say, I was missing the "quiet" that came with only having two kids at home to fight....
Going away from home for a week is good for them. Something they have to do. But don't believe the French when they tell you with very serious eyes that you will find them SO changed when they come home. Perhaps you would if they are an only child and suddenly they don't need you as much. Perhaps they would if they are smaller and were not so independent before going. But here? In this house? Things seemed to settle right back to the status quo; the only thing having change was her knowing she could do it and us knowing the day of her leaving forever is one week closer to reality.