Three weeks ago, I waived goodbye to my 11 year old daughter at the airport. She was off on a three week school exchange program in Pangkal Pinang, Indonesia. Ayra has never been away from me for more than 3 days, let alone 3 whole weeks. I was a nervous wreck, though I did not show this. Deep down, my heart was shouting “don’t go” but what came out of my mouth was “you should go, this will be a good experience for you!” What? I couldn’t believe the words that was coming out of my mouth!

As I watched her pack a few nights before, I kept thinking to myself what if she gets sick, what if she trips over her self and gets cuts everywhere… my Ayra is like me, clumsy in ways you can’t imagine. After she was done packing things she thinks she needs; I naturally unpacked it and put in things I know she’ll need. You can never be too prepared. This was a girl who has never had to do her own laundry. This was a girl who never had to walk to school or take a bus. This was my girl who had always gotten what she wanted (well almost…. except going to a One Direction concert in UK). Oh my, I have just turned my daughter into a brat! and its all my fault!

Here I am about to bid farewell. Sending her to a foreign land to live with a new family for 3 weeks and all I could think of was that she doesn’t know how to use the washing machine! Alamak!

Our last communication was a few days after she had arrived safely in the arms of her new Mama and Papa; I sensed her voice was breaking and I was biting my lips to bite back tears. I forced myself to say ” Ayra behave yourself, be helpful to your new family and remember to wash your plate after eating” but what I really really wanted to say was “come home sayang, I miss you so much”. For the first time when she said she missed me and everyone here, I really felt a hole in my heart! Silently I thought, ” that’s it! no boarding school ever!”

Three weeks came and went and I am now back at the airport; impatiently waiting for the darn plane to land. I just want to hug and kiss and never let her go. I know her Daddy missed her dearly too… watching ‘How I Met Your Mother’ just wasn’t the same without Ayra.

The day after her ‘Mama’ calls me up saying she now misses having Ayra around. That she was such a joy to have in their family. She told me that Ayra was such a responsible girl to her new ‘adik’ and offered to help around the house; even though they already have 2 maids. Ayra would talk to everyone over dinner sharing her experiences at her new school. She said that Ayra’s favourite food was Ayam Opor and even asked for the recipe. Hani was her buddy and host family’s daughter; we had Hani over for three weeks earlier this year and she was lovely to have around as well. Hence, the ‘exchange’ program. Both Ayra and Hani hit it off like 2 peas in a pod.

I can see that Ayra came back to us more confident in the way she speaks. She is now crazy over teh botol and pok me. She is now more adventurous with trying new activities and new food. She did say she attempted to wash her own clothes but Mama said no need. Maybe all that worry was for nothing but I can’t help myself. Can any mother? hehehee….

I must say her school did a fantastic job in organising the whole program. Safety was their number one priority. Communication was excellent. As parents we got daily reports and pictures for their activities. Maybe that lessened my missing her as I could see from the pictures she was genuinely having a good time with her new found friends. I had the assurance that the children were well looked after judging from the enormous food that they were lavished with and the kind of attention the teachers gave them from the variety of activities that was organised. Would I send Ally for the same experience? Well maybe when she’s 21! Haaa… I’d still like to kepit her under my armpit for a little while.

A mother will always worry about her children even when they’re all big and gone. We fuss over the littlest things yet demand their independence. We can never be too right or wrong. We can just make the best decision at that particular moment and time. We may live to regret ever saying Yes to something but more often than not things will work out for the better… we just have to look real hard!

… perhaps this is what they call maternal instinct.