The youngest daughter is going to France for three weeks in May/June. We contacted the family over there several months back, and arrangements were made. She will be attending a school directly across the street from my cousin's home, the one her three children attended. I've purchased the tickets, she has her passport, she has been diligently saving her money.
Now, I knew that her first priority for that money was a new laptop. Not exactly cogent, one might think, but she's wanted a laptop for over a year now, and I understand how setting oneself an Important Deadline can make it easier to stay motivated and self-disciplined.
This week, though, it seemed that her focus on the laptop was getting out of hand. The deadline is fast approaching. She only has one or two more paycheques before she'll be boarding that plane.
And Rebekah? She is panicking.
"I won't have enough money, mom! I could buy one, but it would be cheap and chintzy and probably break down in a year. I don't want a crap laptop!"
Fair enough. So I suggest that it doesn't matter. The money she has saved so far will be a decent amount of spending money for her trip, and she can continue to save for the laptop afterward.
"I don't care about spending money!!!" And, it is entirely clear, that is as far as this conversation is going to get. She has collapsed on her bed in a puddle of existential despair. I pat her shoulder (it is shaken off, of course, but I do it anyway) and then leave.
I don't really get it. Sure, a laptop would be nice, but spending money is nicer. What kind of a trip would you get with not a penny to spend in your pocket? Bizarre. If I had to choose between laptop and spending money, I sure know which I'd... oh. And then the penny drops in the maternal head. Belatedly, no doubt. I'm sure you've figured it out already.
The laptop represents contact with her friends. She may be going to another country (a daunting prospect), but, with laptop under her elbow, she will be able to take her friends with her. Ah. Of course.
She has no idea what awaits her. She doesn't really remember our last trip to France. She has no conception of what international travel looks like, she doesn't know how she'll be filling her days. Of course she wants the security of her friends. What she needs, obviously, is some sense of what awaits. We need to do a little research, see what the local sights and attractions are, scope out some potential day trips for her. How foolish of me not to have thought of this before.
Thirty-some years ago, I was sixteen and traveling to England to stay with an aunt and uncle for six weeks. Before I got on that plane, I knew what I'd like to see in the city in which I'd be staying, and I had day trips to London, Stratford, and even into Wales planned for myself. Contact with my friends, in the days before the Internet, would be in the form of lots and lots and lots of post cards. My mother and I had pored over travel brochures and books. It had been such fun, planning my Big Adventures!
I need to do the same with my daughter. Duh.
A day or two later, there is time and opportunity.
"Hey, sweetie. Come have a look at this." I have on my laptop screen a page of the sights and sounds of the region. "Look at what is right around the corner from where you'll be staying!"
She looks at me, a bit blankly.
"These are things you can explore while you're at Gillian's."
"You mean, I could go see them?"
Ah, she's getting it! The romance of travel! The excitment of discovery! The empowerment of being autonomous!
"Travel by myself? That's LAME, mom!"
She bounds upstairs again, no doubt to wallow once more in existential despair. Good thing, too, because what's on the tip of my tongue,
"Lame? LAME?!?! I'll tell you what's lame! Lame is spending over a thousand dollars to go to another country so that you can sit in your bedroom and IM your friends, which you can do at home! For free! THAT'S LAME, young lady!" is not entirely constructive.
It may yet get said. But not just yet. She's feeling unnerved, a little apprehensive, intimidated. All perfectly understandable. And she's reacting to these negative feelings in entirely true-to-form adolescent ways. (None of them particularly helpful, but also understandable, even if they are REALLY, REALLY AGGRAVATING!)
It was Rebekah's wise older sister Sarah who made the more constructive suggestion: Enlist the help of Adam's wonderful (sadly, ex-) girlfriend. Erika has travelled widely. In fact, she will be in Paris when Rebekah's flight gets in, so the girls already have a day of adventure in Paris planned. complete with renting bicycles and exploring a "whole bunch of neat places Erika knows!" (Bless that girl.) Sarah is brilliant! Erika is wonderful!
I am hereby enlisting Erika as my Secret Weapon. If anyone can get Rebekah psyched up, enthused and motivated to enjoy her time in France to the very fullest, is it the effervescent, energetic, and positive Erika. We'll get my girl's attitude shifted ... whether she likes it or not!
"Lame." Good lord.