Quick link: What Not to Say to the Parents of Boarding School Kids

I’m nervous. I talked to other parents, wrote this essay, and Brain Child published it today and I’m nervous. It is a topic that really sits on the ledge and could topple over quickly into snark, bitterness, anger, and misunderstanding. I really tried to avoid going there but am not my own best editor.


We all can get defensive when it comes to parenting choices. Mommy Wars, anyone? Like I wrote in the piece in the mommy war link, none of us is sufficient on our own, none of us makes perfect choices that will guarantee a certain outcome. We’re fumbling in the dark, learning to trust, and leaning on each other.

Its just that sometimes when I need to lean a little, with our particular choice of boarding school, it can seem like the support I thought would be there isn’t. Not intentionally, not always. Most people don’t intend to cause offense or hurt feelings. But there are ways of phrasing things that, quite simply, sting.

A flight attendant on our five-day flight fiasco asked why I was leaving my kids in Kenya and what we did in Djibouti. I told her and she said, “Well, you just meet the most interesting people, don’t you?”

I guess you do. And here are some suggestions on talking with those interesting people (who, by the way, don’t feel they are all that interesting).

Thank you to everyone who loves our family, our kids, and who blesses us with friendship and curiosity about our lives, even when you might not agree with our choices. Thank you for letting me lean, for asking sincere questions, for the evident care and affection you shower on my family.

There are few responses to our decision to send our 12-year old children to boarding school that are harder to hear than, “I could never do that.” Especially when that response comes from people I care too much about to offend by saying out loud what runs through my mind in the moments following this declaration.

I could never raise my kids in a country that sells five-pound gummy bears. I could never raise my kids in a culturally isolated, world-view restricted, familiar but uninspiring location.

It is a good thing I don’t respond like this because not only are these responses cruel and snarky, they are lies.

They are lies because I could raise my kids in America, I even daydream about it sometimes. I have good friends who are excellent parents raising kids in America. There are kids with healthy palates, culturally diverse worlds, wide-open world-views, living creative and inspired lives in the American suburbs.

The reason these answers are what initially rise to the surface when someone says I could never do boarding school is because those words imply a refusal to step into my world for even a second, an inability to see anything beyond the four walls of their own choices so I knee-jerk back with the same attitude. They also subtly (and not so subtly sometimes) communicate a, “You don’t love your kids as much as I do,” kind of attitude that is equally false and I want to belittle the speaker just because I can be mean like that at times.

I compiled a list of things to never say to the parents of boarding school kids as well as the responses that go through that parent’s mind when we hear them. I have personally heard each of these, and more…

Click here to read the rest of What Not to Say to the Parents of Boarding School Kids

*image via Wikipedia