I was the kind of student who loved it when teachers told me I was doing a great job. I even use gold stars to reward myself for good things (workouts, eating right, drinking my water). I mostly do things for J because I want to be kind or generous or because it is what I would do for my own children. I don’t expect **much** in return.
That said, I need a gold star or thank you every now & again for the hard work that I’m doing to make this a good year for her. I haven’t gotten it from her or from the school (the program is essentially the school). I got one phone call in Oct. from the international student liaison & I’m sorry to say that I really think he was more interested in whether she was coming back next year (meaning should they look for another student while on a recruiting trip in China). I sent a followup email & never got a response. I did get a nice email from the headmaster in December. I did get a nice email from J’s mom in late November.
It’s not enough. I just read this good advice to students getting ready to travel abroad for the first time from a former AFSer: You cannot say “thank you” too often. Be sure to show your family a cooperative attitude, enthusiasm for their efforts and a warm and appreciative response.
I buy things at the store I know she would like, such as noodle bowls & special yogurt. (The yogurt is a really big deal since I can’t stand that Jamie Lee Curtis who advertises for Activia (turn off the tv when I hear her grating voice), but our pediatrician thought it might be good for J’s stomach, so I bought it). Yogurt is uneaten & goes bad in the fridge unless I get it out & put it on a plate for breakfast.
I cart her & her friends to/from everywhere when I am so tired of driving across town I could honestly scream. I rearrange my schedule to make it all possible.
I took her to the Hallmark store & bought a card for her to send to her grandma, who was very ill. I took it to the post office & made a special trip to the counter to get the right postage on it to go to China.
I’ve told her about tennis lessons as I know she likes tennis (or at least played in China). She responds as if she’s interested, but never follows back up to make it happen.
Little things every day: emails to let her know what time I’ll pick her up, questions about how her day went, inquiries about how her class/exam went. Fixing ice cream & taking it into her room.
In other words, I treat her as one of my own family.
Today was another one where I wonder why I bother. Her fellow international student friend is struggling with what sounds like either extreme homesickness or depression. I have talked for a long time with J & she’s really sad about the situation. It came to a head yesterday when they admitted the friend to the hospital. I dug out some stationery & gave her a card with an envelope. I told her that the friend’s host mom had mentioned that she would really appreciate a note from J & to give it to the host sister as she would stop by the hospital tonight. She said she didn’t know what to say & I told her that she should just tell the friend she’s thinking of her & that she’s looking forward to seeing her.
Fast forward 10 min. later: she’s left for school & left the stationery right where I gave it to her. If it were my own child, I would assume she was being forgetful or whatever. With her, it’s like she didn’t even appreciate the effort. This is not the first time something has sat right where I gave it to her**. I don’t care one way or another whether she gives her a card. I just care that I made the effort & that she shunned it, but not even outright – just by ignoring the stationery.
Since I’m not getting it from her or others, I’m hereby giving myself a gold star for making it to (almost) month 5. Sweet lord. This is harder than I thought it would be. No, we don’t have the ‘devil child’ as my husband has reminded me. Thanks for making me feel like I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. However, he’s not around when I’m doing all the things to earn the gold stars. Luckily, I believe in karma. I believe that all the good I put out will come back to me (& has in other ways!).
**examples are the dresser I bought in October & painted to match her room when I realized she didn’t have enough dresser space (since the room was piled with clothes not put away). It turned out really cool, with red painted on the top over the leather that was stained. It sits with drawers empty with more stuff piled on top of it. This is probably a teenager thing. I can accept that. I just need a little gratitude attitude.