Mom’s growing pains | Living with Gleigh

My oldest daughter is in Japan as I write this. She just completed her first week there and is probably asleep right now because it’s 3:00am tomorrow in Japan. I have gotten an email every day from her and she’s having a good time.

How dare she! Here’s the thing, as my child is away from me, after never having been away from me for any significant length of time before, I can’t imagine her existing without me because she never has. Really, I haven’t been away from her more than a couple of days at a time.

I’m not worried, she’s in good hands with her host family, teacher and other classmates, but I can’t imagine she’s functioning without my loving hands to guide her. Oh, I spent a lot of time preparing her for these two weeks: teaching her to take care of herself by staying hydrated, sun-screened, and remembering her medications because I wouldn’t be there to remind her. I instructed her in the conduct she should have while being a guest in someone’s home for two weeks: telling her to take shorter showers; stay self-contained by keeping her things picked up; not to play on the computer, but to be attentive to the family; follow their lead with dinner table manners, removing shoes, and bedtimes.

I even directed her on attitude and stamina, reminding her this was the chance of a lifetime and she needed to seize every opportunity no matter how she felt that day. After all, she was traveling to a different country with different weather, food and customs and she’d probably be jet lagged for a good portion of the trip. She’d probably be feeling tired and maybe cranky at some points, but it wouldn’t matter, she’d have to pull herself together and forge forward.

So basically I directed her to be different than she is at home. You can probably understand my gall now that she is there, having a good time, making friends both with the kids she traveled with and the Japanese students she is meeting. She hasn’t complained once, even about the beds that really aren’t beds, but just mats rolled out on the floor. She said they were surprisingly comfortable.

This is a girl who does not like to be uncomfortable, does not adapt well to change, doesn’t even want to go to a movie Friday night after school because she’s tired from her day. So my question is, what it wrong with my child? How is she functioning so well without me? How is she coping without being her normal self?

I even pointed out to her the fact that she was functioning so well in one of my reply emails. She replied back how proud of herself she was at doing so well. I had expected at least a little complaining in return, “Mommy, I miss you and need you, and I’m ready to come home!” But what did I get? “I haven’t had time to miss anyone.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not jealous about her being in Japan without me. I have no desire to go to Japan. I traveled extensively when I was her age and in college, I’m happy staying home, hearing about her travels. I think I am just having growing pains; my daughter’s growing up.

My feelings aren’t hurt that she’s not missing anyone, it makes the time away from her easier. I would probably be distressed if she was homesick and there was nothing I could do for her. As we raise our children, our ultimate goal is that they grow up to become independent, productive members of society. Every passing day my daughter spends in Japan shows me she will soon be that person I have been striving for.

I know, though, she misses us a little bit. Along with her not having time to miss us, she also wrote the following: “On the way to the sushi place the family was all laughing and joking in the car and it reminded me of our family and made me laugh. Some of the things I've seen here really made me realize how similar people are, no matter what their culture or language. The other day after school, I watched some girls play for a long time squirting each other with water bottles, and I've shared some gorgeous smiles with strangers. I guess laughter, love, and happiness are universal.”

And that is all that really matters.


Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington. She is committed to writing about the humor amidst the chaos of a family. You can read her column every week and more of her writing and her daily blog on her


We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the Oct 19
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates