I Can’t Believe You’re Sending Her To Boarding School

When we returned to Qatar in January after spending the Christmas break in Australia, a colleague of my husband’s pulled him aside to tell him about a rumour that was going around.

It was a rumour that we were leaving Qatar.

Supposedly someone had seen a picture in my Instagram feed of my eldest in a school uniform. I’d commented that it was a sign of things to come. And it was a sign of things to come. She’ll be starting boarding school in Adelaide in January.

Just typing that last sentence has caused my fingers to shake while tears form. I’ve held off on writing about this solely for self preservation. I haven’t been ready to face the fact that it’s getting closer, nor have I wanted the judgement that comes with the decision and the inevitable self defence. My eldest is currently at a fantastic school with a great IB program, she has friends who she adores and the teaching staff are the best I have seen. In the past couple of months she has had one on one attention most parents could only dream of, and her levels of self confidence have sky-rocketed. It just makes no sense to move her. Except it does, for us.

Our beautiful girl, my first, my baby, my global companion, has never lived in Australia. While she holds a passport, can recite the national anthem (she sang it unaccompanied to her class in Canada in Grade 3), and has an array of Aussie t-shirts, jumpers, beach towels and stick on tattoos – she is yet to live the daily life of an Aussie kid. She’s well versed in American History, the Canadian provinces, and the Gulf landscape, but is shaky on Australian History. She’ll be 15 in a couple of months and is yet to catch a public bus (solo) to go and see a movie with friends, take a part-time job in a deli, and more importantly see what Australia looks like when you’re not on holiday. The nightly news, the daily politics, the issues that make people take to the streets – a first hand look.

While I want her to have all of the opportunities that life in Australia can bring – I don’t want her to leave me. I have found myself at the door of her room in the middle of the night wondering how I will breathe without her in the house. I weep quietly in the kitchen at dinner time thinking of her seat at the dining room table empty next year. I cry randomly at traffic lights. I try and inconspicuously wipe the tears away when I watch her play sport, and right now, there are floods of tears as I type what feels like some sort of confession onto the page. A few weeks ago as we travelled to Kuwait together for a softball tournament I felt my voice waver as I suggested she find the right check-in counter, get us through immigration and find the correct gate “you’ll need to do this one day on your…” my voice trailed off as I turned to wipe the tears from my eyes.

Years ago, when I was a spotty teenager in country South Australia my parents made a similar decision. We were at netball practice one night when a team member’s mother felt the need to share her opinions on me going away to my mother.

“Oh no! I could never do that to my children. I could never live without my girls.” she said a little too dramatically.

At the time I thought my mother hadn’t noticed what she’d said until we got in the car. My mother who was the netball coach, the person who drove everyone everywhere and hadn’t missed a sporting event of mine in my life.

“Bitch” my mother said under her breath “it’s an opportunity for you, how could she think it was an easy choice?” My mother was hurt, angry and I realize now probably hugely conflicted.

I find myself in these conversations on a regular basis now. Good friends, confidantes and people I love dearly have all let me know whether they could or couldn’t do it.

“But why, I don’t get it?”

“Oh, I could never do that”

“Is she okay? How’s she coping with the news?”  (as if she hadn’t been a part of the decision)

“Does she have special issues they can’t deal with here?”

“OMG you’re the last person I thought would do that?!”

Can you see why I’ve been hesitant about talking about it. For the past few years G and I have felt that we’d like to offer the children the opportunity to have a few years at school in Australia before going to University. We don’t want them starting cold, we want them to have a friend base. It’s a very personal choice and one we’ve contemplated, talked about, and mulled over for years. A couple of years ago when we started to see Lizzie’s peers in Australia living a life that we couldn’t offer her here we began looking at schools, she made a choice and picked what she felt worked best for her. As we made the tour G and I gave each other the side-eye while looking around the boarding house, are we really doing this? How did we get here? Didn’t she only turn three last year? Weren’t you just teaching her how to ride a bike? Is that our child asking where she can do her hand washing?

So no, we’re not leaving – but one of us is going on an adventure. She’ll be back and forth between us and her Grandparents, Aunts, family friends and hopefully her new best friends. We are devastated and I don’t say that lightly, my heart is breaking and I am a mess, but sometimes the right decisions are the hardest ones to make.

There goes another box of Kleenex.

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