My Boarding School Fantasy … No, It’s Not What You Think

Sending kids to boarding school Is it just me, or does anyone else fantasize about sending their 12-year-old daughter to boarding school?

After spending a long, hard day working with adults, stretching myself with diplomacy and being polite in tough situations, communicating reasonably through stressful moments—and receiving polite and reasonable responses (for the most part) throughout said day—coming home to a hair-trigger temper, “I hate you! You’re ruining my life!” when I’ve only asked her to stop chatting with her friend Nicole on the computer long enough to take out the garbage (one of her OH so few chores) —I feel completely ambushed. I stand in stunned silence trying not to “engage” as I have been advised. I fail at the not-engaging thing more often than I’d like to admit, because she’s really, really good at button-pushing.

And that’s another thing—the button-pushing. It seems that I push her buttons just by opening my mouth—before I’ve even had a chance to utter a sound. She cuts me off at the pass, not knowing whether what I’m going to say is good or bad. She just assumes it’ll be bad (I don’t know… seems like a guilty conscience to me…), so even if what I was going to say was, “Your hair looks really pretty today,” by the time she’s done chewing me up one side and down the other, I’m ready to tell her that she needs to walk the dog, clean her room, do her homework, take out the garbage, AND there will be no computer time!

That’s when I fail at the “not-engaging” thing.

Then there are those rare magical moments, when she comes back to me after slamming the door to her room, (I keep waiting for the door knob to fall off—it’s going to happen, I have no doubt about it) and acts as if the violence of her raging soul never happened. She talks to me like a reasonable adult, does her chores and pretends not to notice my stunned silence or cautious replies. I keep telling myself that my life would be so boring if she did that all the time, to counter the thought of how wonderful life would be if she did that all the time.

But because those moments are so magically rare, I still fantasize about boarding school.


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  • Jmzizka

    Hi Brenda,

    Our ‘button pushers’ are our heaven-sent, biggest teachers. When you grow, she’ll change. Somewhere deep inside of you there is a wound begging to be healed. That wound calls people in your life to pour salt in it so that you don’t forget it’s there. It wants you to notice it’s still there and heal it.

    Reflect on what that wound is. Perhaps it’s a feeling that you’re not ‘nice enough’ or that you should ‘do more’ for other people or ‘put other people before yourself’ or… Whatever the wound is, it’s focused on how you really feel when your daughter yells at you. Heal that and the button pushers will move on to other wounds.

    When we see that all interactions that we have with others is a mirror of our subconscious, we no longer fantasize about boarding school, but homeschool.

    It has nothing to do with her, and everything to do with you.

    In love and light,

    • Brenda

      Wow. That’s deep. Sounds like I have some growing up to do. Thank you for a very insightful and thoughtful response. But don’t take me too seriously – I like to “humor-ize” the hard stuff. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Oh, those damn buttons! And the not-engaging!!

    I thought I was over all that – then I became a Gammie. It takes about 3 seconds (and one of the aforementioned buttons) for my grand and I to turn into two battling 5 year olds. Sigh.

    Thanks for this – I love writing that feels real (it lets me tell myself I’m “normal” – whatever that is).

    • Brenda

      Button button button – whose got the button? Yep! I do! 🙂 Thanks for your empathizing comments! It’s nice not to be alone.

  • Laura Seymour

    I have 2 boys, almost 4 & 6 years old. Whenever I find people staring at me when my kids spaz out and that person’s same-aged daughter stands politely by, I think “at leat my kids aren’t going to be teenage girls”. Kudos to moms of tweens and teens. It has to be rough!

    • Brenda

      Thanks, Laura. I’m sure you’ll have your own issues that are boy issues… but hopefully it will go smoothly for you. 🙂

  • I don’t know if this is any comfort but I was that daughter to my mother. I won awards for my door slamming abilities. Yet I loved my mum and trusted her like no other. I often think that at that age we have to untangle ourselves from our mothers to assert who we are becoming. Then I had babies of my own and I realised more than ever before the depth of my mums love for me, what she did for me (like I know do for my two boys) and our relationship changed. More equal and more mutual respect. The things I fought her on now seem silly and unimportant. She always says she can’t remember me being THAT bad. I think she’s forgotten or blocked it out but I haven’t. Mind you I have teenage years filled with sullen and smelly boys to look forward to so I’ll get mine 😉

    • Brenda

      Good to know that other mother’s go through it and their daughters turn out to be lovely as adults. I’m looking forward to that part! 🙂 Good luck with the boys!

  • Lisa Pereira

    Funny my fantasy involves a convent.
    Teenagers are giant sized toddlers trying to master their world. Unfortunately for adults the things that work in childhood (food and sleep) no longer apply. In childhood the devil’s spawn are learning to control their physical world. In the teenage years it is the interpersonal world and you are the training dummy. Engagement actually helps teenagers learn to deal with other people.
    And then there is this. There is no sign of greater love of a child for their parents than the unprovoked verbal typhoon. Abused children/teenagers never engage their parents this way because there is no trust that they will still be loved when it is over.

    • Anonymous

      Bless you for that view point!! (Taking the convent cue.) I know it in my heart, but sometimes… it’s just so hard to believe!! The tirades! The TIRADES!!
      Thanks for making me feel better. 🙂

  • I haven’t fantasized about a boarding school yet, but I do fantasize going on a long vacation or retreat, which sounds like you’ve accomplished recently. Maybe that was just the right medicine you needed. Our daughter will be 12 this August, and we have had our fair share of door slamming. She can be very stubborn, defiant, and amazingly dramatic. And then all of the sudden she is totally calm and “normal” like nothing happened. I’m always on this emotional roller coaster with her. I’m often at a loss for words and have no idea what to do when we are clashing. She is our first and only child, so there is always something new to learn and struggle with each and every day. My ideas about myself as a mother are often being called into question, especially when I see the ugly side of myself suddenly pop out it’s hideous head. But with all these mother/daughter struggles we have, I’m always reminded that we have this incredible bond that we share, and the intense love I have for her always deepens. The more I watch her grow and develop, the more I see just how amazing she is and how she is going to turn into a wonderfully strong, independent young woman someday. That strong will of hers is going to pay off. On the bad days I dread the teen years and worry that I will lose total control of her. But on the good days I have confidence that it will all work out. I have friends who have older children and they talk about the challenges of the teen years, but they also say a lot of really good things about it. It’s nice to hear the positive stories and focus on the good things that can transpire getting to know your child as they transition into adulthood. So now I’m beginning to see that it might not be so bad after all. There is a book you might find interesting, called “Becoming Peers – Mentoring Girls into Womanhood” by DeAnna L’am. I haven’t read it yet, but it seems like the perfect sort of book to get inspired about guiding our daughters through the teen years. She also wrote a book for tween and teen girls to read called “A Diva’s Guide to Getting Your Period” with artsy illustrations. I’ve also heard good things about the American Girl series of books for girls called “The Care & Keeping of You” and it’s companion book “The Feelings Book.” Nothing like having some helpful recourses to help guide ourselves and our daughters through this powerful transition in life.

    • Brenda Chapman

      Yes, the American Girl series of books are fantastic! Wish we had those when I was a kid. I highly recommend those.
      Thanks for sharing your insights. It’s always good to know we’re not alone. 🙂

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