Hi Meltingpot Readers,
I don't know about you, but I admit I've been riveted by Amanda Knox. I didn't necessarily feel that she was an innocent wrongly accused or a guilty murderer who got what she deserved, I was just drawn into her horrific experience. And in some ways I could sympathize. I was an exchange student in college. I did things in Spain in the name of freedom and experimentation that I would never do in the States. I fell in love with dangerous European men (not el esposo of course) and I probably made decisions that in retrospect could have gotten me into a lot of trouble. A lot of trouble. No, I never killed anyone or even broke any laws, but still, my 'year of living dangerously,' could have turned out with a far more sinister outcome. So, maybe Amanda Knox was in Italy and was feeling free to experiment, to live dangerously, to abandon caution and it somehow backfired on her. I don't know, but I can imagine several scenarios.
But now, as a mother, I look at Amanda Knox, accused of murder, and spending four years in jail and I look at those poor American hikers, accused of spying in Iran, who spent two years in an Iranian prison and I cringe at the thought that one day my children will want to go abroad and experience a different way of life. Suddenly, as a parent, I see the inherent risks of my children wanting the chance to 'live dangerously' in another country, in another language. How, I wonder, do parents these days let their children go?
I asked my uncle this question before he passed, as he allowed his two young teens to travel to Germany when they were in high school on an exchange program. He told me he had simply raised his children right and that he trusted them. I rolled my eyes at that answer and decided he was just too lenient. But then I looked back on my own childhood. My parents sent me/allowed me to be an exchange student in Morocco when I was 17 years old. My first experience abroad and I was on a plane to Africa. There was no internet back then and letters took at least 10 days to arrive. That trip was life changing for me. (By the way, the program I went on, AFS, still exists today and is wonderful.) I experienced myself and the world in a totally different way. I made lifelong friends and became part of a new family. I also learned how to speak a little bit of Arabic and French which I still remember and use on occasion today.
And then of course, I did go to Spain in college. I was a little more reckless, but look what I got out of the experience. A husband, a career and the fodder for my memoir, Kinky Gazpacho. Not bad for a year abroad.
So, at the end of the day, I'm sure I will be scared to death when my kids inevitably ask to go abroad alone. I'll probably try to secretly insert a GPS monitor under their skin or in a back tooth to keep track of them, but I'll let them go. Despite what happened to Amanda Knox and the hikers in Iran, I will keep the faith that I raised my kids right and I will trust them to 'live dangerously' ... but with caution. Is that too much to ask?
What do you think dear readers? Will you let your kids go abroad with no reservations? At what age? What will you do to prepare them?
I'm so listening.