A few months ago I forced my adult son to go to Africa. Forced may be a little strong but I definitely pushed, needled, manipulated, strongly suggested, and finally booked a ticket after he gave me a weak yes thinking it was going to shut me up. He is very happy that he has a mother with such a strong will. He should be writing this blog but I can only twist his arm so much. I pick my battles.
Since my son is not going to tell you about his amazing experience, please allow me to tell you why I pushed so hard and why I am thrilled to have won the battle and the war.
Jake was feeling a little lost, struggling in school and his band broke up. I want to always support my children’s dreams but also stress that supporting yourself is important too and that you know what, there’s a whole huge world out there to see and experience. A semester or two off from college isn’t a bad thing for a student who doesn’t really want to be there. Yes, I’m the mother who said college can wait.
I’d be lying if I said that the ride to the airport was easy. I think that we were so caught up in the excitement of picking a country and planning the trip that it wasn’t until my son got out of the car at JFK that it really hit me.
I was sending my son who had never really been away from me for long to another country. Holy %&^! I was sending my baby to Africa!
There were tears after I pulled away and there was fear that a million things could go wrong. What if he doesn’t get picked up at the airport? What if he goes with the wrong person and that person is a con artist or even worse someone who wants to hurt my baby? What if he forgets his malaria meds? What if he….. I came close to turning around and running through the airport like a maniac wanting to save my six foot two baby.
The first week was rough. He called home and texted. A lot. While I was thrilled that he was able to communicate I could also hear how homesick he was. It was an adjustment.
Jake was quickly won over by the people of Ghana and by the little faces at the orphanage he worked in. The lost sound I heard in his voice during week one was replaced with stories about walking through villages and having strangers pull him over to welcome him to their country. They called him Ubroni, foreigner, but they said it with affection. I heard excitement when he talked about going into villages and feeling like a rock star.
He stayed in the home of a local family with other volunteers and my heart swelled for these strangers that welcomed my son into their home and treated him like he was their own. He told me about going to market with them and we laughed as he said that he refused to go to the chicken farm. That was a little too real for him.
My son met people from other parts of the world. They talked about their lives back home and he got a greater sense that there is a big world out there. On weekends they traveled around Ghana and that was probably my greatest pleasure, my son navigating around a country on another continent, my son who normally couldn’t find anything without a GPS.
One weekend he decided to go off on his own. It was thrilling to hear him talk about going to the coast as if he were going to Tobay! Maternal instinct kicked in and I warned him about the rough surf and talking to strangers and we laughed at the idea that of all things I was worried about it was him swimming.
What I love about him going was that he saw life outside of Massapequa. He worked with little kids who gave him as much as he gave them. They may have given more. They taught my son how big the little things can be and all of the opportunities he has as well as all he should be grateful for.
He’s home now and back in school. He met friends there, one who will be visiting soon. And we are looking at where I’m going to force him to go next. My daughter asked if I can force her to go too. I love that! I highly recommend forcing your kid to go to Africa.