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Jul 9 2014

What If I Don’t Want to Go to England With My Son?

By at 2:20 pm

Boy using computer at school

In those halcyon days when I knew everything about parenting (i.e. before I had children), I worked as a television researcher for figure skating. Because figure skating is a sport where potential Olympic contenders have to start intensive instruction at a relatively young age, a good percentage of the athletes I worked with were forced to move away from home in order to work with a championship coach at an elite training center. Some did it while of high school-age, while others were as young as 12 or even 10. Most ended up either living in dormitories or with local host families.

As a childless parenting expert, I knew exactly what I would have done in their mothers’ places. If I ever had a kid who I sincerely believed would benefit from living away from home, whether in the name of athletics or academics or what have you, then, without a doubt, I would relocate with them. (Which is exactly what 1994 Olympic Champion Tara Lipinski’s mother did, leaving her husband behind in their home in Texas, while she and Tara lived in Delaware and Detroit.)

As of this writing, I do not have a future Olympic champion on my hands. Nor do I have one of those kids who enrolls at Harvard or MIT at age 12. 

What I do have, however, is a 10-year-old son who has been teaching himself computer programming, and who applied for and was accepted to participate in a week-long, youth computer programming conference this August…in England.

Because he is under the age of 13, he must bring a parent or guardian with him.

This is all good.

Except… I don’t want to go to England.

It’s not due to my notorious cheapness. Money isn’t the issue. His room and board will be covered by the conference once he gets there (so will the guardian’s). And a grant he won earlier will pay for the international plane fare. (BTW: If any NYC parents are interested in applying their children for the same grant, applications are now open; I highly recommend it.)

I realize what an incredible opportunity this is for him. At school, he’s the only one so passionately into programming. For some exercises, the teacher, rather than placing him in small work groups, has my son go around the class and help others, instead. It would be so great for him to spend time with like-minded peers who don’t deem him weird for “thinking like a computer.”

And these are boys and girls coming in from all over the world, not just the UK, but also Germany and Singapore (and those are just the ones we know of)! It’s the experience of a lifetime!

Except… I really don’t want to go to England.

The reasons are multiple:

1. I have two other children to take care of. (Simple solution: My husband can stay with them. He’s a teacher and has summers off.)

2. I have my own work to do. (Simple solution: I can take a break from promoting my romance and mystery novels, and either re-negotiate the deadlines or simply turn down some of my freelance writing assignments.)

3. I get airsick flying, can barely sleep in my own bed, much less a strange one in a different time-zone, and a variety of food allergies makes eating anything I haven’t cooked myself an infinite adventure. (Simple solution: Suck it up.)

Except… I really, really don’t want to go to England.

I know it would be wonderful for my son. It would enrich his life both intellectually and socially. And it would make him very, very happy.

The worst it would do for me is make me temporarily uncomfortable. We’re not talking years here, à la Tara Lipinski. We’re talking a little over a week, seven nights sleeping in a dorm at The University of Plymouth, and two transatlantic flights. So what’s a little jet-lag, insomnia, nausea and vomiting when it comes to your kids’ best interests? (God knows, morning sickness lasted longer, and I toughed that out for them.)

So I guess I’m a hypocrite. No matter how terrific of an experience I believe this would be for my son, I’m not willing to make the trip with him. Call me selfish, call me lazy, call me chicken.

Instead, I recruited my husband. He’s the teacher/web developer. He’ll probably enjoy spending a week locked in an auditorium with a gang of techie kids having conversations where the only words I recognize are “a” and “the.”

A sample morning greeting from my son, “The problem with this C++ tutorial is that it doesn’t teach you how to write:

if ( 5>6){

var x = “greater” ;

};

else{

var x = “less than”;

};

elif (5=6){

var x = “equal to”;

};

statements.”

(I had my son transcribe the above. He promises the code is benign and will not crash the Kveller website.)

Also, my husband has never been outside of the United States. This will be educational for both him and our son. Plus, it’ll be a great bonding experience!

What do you think? Have I rationalized it enough yet? Yes?

So why do I still feel guilty?

Honestly, I have no idea. My son is still getting to go on his trip, so I haven’t deprived him of his opportunity. And I don’t feel in the least bit guilty about convincing my husband to go in my place. I suspect what’s nagging at me is the feeling that I should have wanted to go. My son won’t be 10 forever. Pretty soon, he won’t need me to chaperone him anywhere–and he won’t ask me to, either. Shouldn’t I be treasuring every moment I have with him? Shouldn’t I regret missing this major one?

Maybe the reason I feel guilty is because… I don’t feel guilty?

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