Today was hard.
It was the first day of school for our girls here in Puerto Escondido, Mexico.
We chose this school because of it’s small class sizes, it’s creative education model, and it's incredible parent community.
A new country, a new school, and a new language. It’s a lot for all of us.
We did our positive visualization practice last night to prepare (check out our YouTube video about it!). There was a lot of excitement and good feelings during our practice. I felt hopeful that the first day would go well.
It did not go well.
As we drove to school this morning, our eldest (6 years old) started welling up with tears: “I don’t want to go to this school. No one speaks English.”
My heart broke in two. I acknowledged her feelings, and then got overwhelmed with my own emotions and had to turn away.
I knew I needed to hold it together for our kids. But this was hard, harder than I had imagined.
We have been on the road for 16 days together, as we drove from our home in Toronto, Canada to Puerto Escondido, Mexico.
It was a long journey, but we made it fun; every day a new place and lots of quality time spent as a family. Essentially, it was a great big family vacation.
And now we were about to say goodbye for an entire day and leave our children in a new place where they didn’t speak the language.
We pulled up to the school. You could feel the apprehension in the air.
All four of us got out of the car and walked through the artistic iron gate of the school.
The beautiful white building had children and a few parents lingering in front.
We chatted with one mom on the front steps attempting to act normal and calm. At that moment, our youngest (4 years old) starting walking back towards the front gate. She had decided that she would not be going to school.
Arjan followed her and cajoled her back to her patiently awaiting teacher. He could empathize with her experience because his family moved to Canada from the Netherlands when he was her age. He too, had to learn a new language and adapt to a new country.
The entrance for the primary grades was through another gate, so I held hands with my brave 6-year-old and accompanied her to class.
The outdoor classroom, next to a pool, huge tree, and thatched-roof palapa, was picturesque and welcoming. Our daughter did not experience it this way. Her tears poured and she begged for me to take her home.
My heart broke, again.
Through my own tears (I tried to hold them in, but couldn’t), I promised her that it was normal for her to feel nervous about her new school, and that we would be with her in spirit throughout the day.
I made a quick escape, only to repeat the same emotional experience with our littlest daughter. She clung to me and cried as we said our goodbyes.
The teachers are lovely and kind, but only speak Spanish. It’s no wonder that we are all having such big feelings.
By the time Arjan and I got into our car, I was sobbing uncontrollably. Previously, my tears had been politely supressed, in an attempt to save face for the girls.
It’s hard enough when one child is having a hard time…but TWO? At the same time? It was too much to handle. Arjan held space for me to feel all the feelings. He was having a hard time, too, but he felt strongly that everything would turn out well (after all, it had turned out well for him when he moved to Canada!).
As we began to drive away from the school, Arjan spotted our 6-year-old in the rearview mirror. She had run through the school gate, searching for us. Her teacher was with her.
I ran to her and consoled her. She was still crying. My sweet, strong girl; vulnerable and raw. Just like her mama.
After agreeing that she could colour all day, she hesitantly walked back through the gate with her generous, attentive teacher.
As a mother, these moments are the most challenging.
Wanting to protect our children from pain and discomfort, yet knowing that when they overcome these hurdles, they will be of stronger character and more worldly humans.
I would be lying if I said that it’s easy to live life unconventionally, in a different country, with a different language, and a different lifestyle.
I have shed many tears after today’s heart-wrenching drop-off. It is the reality that our 16-day road trip adventure has ended, and a new year-long family adventure has begun.
All of the fears, the self-doubt, the wondering, “why are we doing this?” have all surfaced.
These feelings are familiar. This is part of the process and I know that it will pass.
I let the feelings come and I sit with them, in all of the mess and the fear and the questions.
Ultimately, I know why we are doing this. We are doing this so that we can have more quality time together as a couple, and as a family.
To not be ruled by the 9 to 5.
To be in the moment with the needs of our family.
To give our children life experience and perspective on their privilege.
To learn a new language.
To let go of the “shoulds”.
To live life with intention.
Here’s to all of the brave souls who live their truth every day.
How are school drop-offs for your family?
Have you ever felt like things are difficult, but know that it will be worth it if you persist?
Your words of wisdom are welcome and always of comfort to us! Please share with us in the comments below.
Quick update: When we picked up the girls from their first day of school, they were totally FINE! When asked about her day, our littlest said: "It was awesome!" and gave us two thumbs-up. Our eldest was laughing and playing with new friends in the school pool...it was hard to get her to leave. Sigh. The rollercoaster of parenting. Feeling relieved and grateful.