When the beginning of the second year rolled around, we were WAY more ready for it! Actually, Britt took care of everything. The school supply list, the uniforms, the shoes, the books, the fees… check, check, check! The stress of getting him in school was gone, and in its place it felt normal. It must’ve felt that way to CJ too, because he just got up the first day of school and rolled with it like he hadn’t even missed a beat over summer.
Thankfully, the school still had their tutoring hour built into his schedule, so help with the classes taught in Spanish and actually teaching Spanish at the same time. The boy became our interpreter every time we went anywhere or had someone to the house that didn’t speak English!
Things were going pretty smooth. But this year brought two challenges.
The first one was a call from his principal that we needed to have a meeting. You know that is the single worst sentence any parent can receive from their child’s school. No principal calls you into the office to tell you your child is doing good, it always means something bad.
So I held my breath for three days until I could sit face to face with the principal for our meeting (because, of course CJ said he had no idea why she would call). “CJ is incredibly smart, but he doesn’t participate in class, he doesn’t make an effort to talk to his classmates, he always looks sad and never smiles, and he never wants to speak and practice Spanish”. Ok, so he wasn’t getting kicked out, but worse, was he miserable? In all the craziness of making sure he got into a school environment, did we forget to foster his social and emotional needs? Parent failure moment. With a heavy heart I waited after our meeting to pick CJ up after classes so we could talk.
“I’m not miserable, I’m not really anything. I don’t understand the classmates since they always speak Spanish, so I just don’t talk to them. I just don’t feel like smiling, but I’m ok.” Um, ok. Why don’t I 100% believe that? Just when we thought we had this school thing down, another obstacle thrown in the path. He assured me he was ok, and passed it off to just being a 14 year old boy, missing the states, missing his old house, and missing fast food (of all thing, lol). And maybe that is some of it, but there is always that bit of guilt that lingers and makes you wonder since you moved your child to another country, is it helping or hurting him? I firmly believe that this experience will help in the future, but what about the present? And that is when I decided we would just fix the present.
It started with asking questions every day after school:
- Did you smile today?
- Did you talk to a friend today?
- Did you talk to someone new today?
- Did you speak Spanish today?
It also meant bringing him to Puerto Adventuras more on the weekends so he could do things with his friends.
We got him out of the house more with us too, I mean, what other kiddo gets to spend a week at Hard Rock Riviera Maya for his birthday? (and yes, he did leave each day to go to school, which is right next door to the resort, talk about funny when he walks out of a resort in his uniform and backpack each day) And afternoon snacks at the beach clubs.
And just when we got into a really good habit and he was enjoying his time and his friends and doing better in school… the second challenge hit. It was March 2020. Can you guess what that was? Lockdown!
Right back to homeschool, which he hated and turns out, still hates. Right back to not being around friends and being by himself. Of course, this would have happened no matter where in the world we were living, but it was still a tough blow. To be doing so good just to have all that momentum crash.
But we made the best of it, all the while hoping and praying that it would only be for the last couple months of the year – I mean, surely we figured they would go back to school in person next year (HA!).
Typing this now, looking back, it’s a pretty emotional blog to post. But I am posting it and going through this story for any of you that are considering this path too. CHECK IN WITH YOUR KIDS OFTEN, check their mental state, ask questions, personal questions – not just academic questions. Make sure they are ok. Make sure you do whatever you can to bring them their own sense of normal in this life. It is a hard transition. Especially for a young teenager. Focus on the overall well being of your child, not just their grades. Focus on the effort made, not just the results seen. Focus on fun at their level, not just what you want to do. Focus on THEM.
I know, Parenting 101. The advice works for all children, not just ones that have moved to a foreign country. Especially with the added stress of isolation due to COVID. Isolation is not a normal state for a child to be in, they need social and emotional interaction with children their own age, and not just through a Zoom screen. So here is to finding creative ways to help all of our children through the craziness of the world today and to hopefully a better future soon!
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