In Honor of Boarding School Moms

For many moms, sending a child to boarding school is probably a bit like giving them up for adoption. You are entrusting another to care for that child who you birthed, who you love, who holds your heart. For let’s be honest, the minute we give birth there is a crack in our fine-oiled armor – A crack that is all soft, sweet-smelling baby. The crack widens when boarding school is a part of the picture.

And often there is criticism from others when boarding school becomes a part of the lives of children.  Sometimes the criticism is founded, other times it perhaps needs to be rethought and the words “God didn’t intend it this way” or “Your kids will never really heal” needs to be said cautiously, if at all.

For there are those of us who went to boarding school and knew even as young children that it was okay. We knew beyond doubt that our parents loved us. Knew that we were given to them as a gift on loan. Our parents understood that they were never the primary authors of our story – for that authorship belongs to God alone. But they wrote on our lives and allowed others to as well – our boarding parents.

Some of those boarding parents wrote well – words of wisdom, laughter, joy, and discipline. Others weren’t sure what to write – and that’s okay. They are and were human. Others wrote poorly – and that was difficult.

Today I honor my mom and two of those boarding moms – Deb & Eunice.

Eunice spoke into my life when I was a little girl. I was seven years old when I met her. Eunice was pretty and had the voice of an angel. She could be heard singing in the halls of our dormitory. I would pretend I was homesick just so I could have Auntie Eunice to myself. Auntie Eunice wrote music and joy into my elementary world. She mothered so many of us so well, yet always gave us up without a grudge when our real moms came to reclaim us.

But we were still always her kids.

Deb spoke into my life when I was a teenager. When boys and belief became more complicated and I was learning to work out my faith with fear and trembling. Deb’s small studio apartment had room for our cooking, our laughter, and even our tears – sometimes falling so fast it was hard to keep up. Deb loved us when we were unloveable and kept in touch with us when we faced the daunting task of returning to our passport countries. Deb was less housemother and more friend.

Deb and Eunice taught me to love well, without holding too tight. They taught me about sacrifice and perseverance. They taught me about laughter and the long journey. As I grew they became my friends – friends I could pray with, cry with, and laugh with until the wee morning hours.

And my mom allowed them to do that. She gave me to God and prayed for those who could walk beside me when she wasn’t there.

And He granted her request.

So to Deb, Eunice and Mom – Happy Mother’s Day and thank you! You loved well and taught so many of us to do the same.

Happy Mother’s Day. Thank you for loving well

28 thoughts on “In Honor of Boarding School Moms

  1. I had the privilege of watching and admiring both Auntie Eunice and Debby give of themselves to so many kids at that school on the hill in Murree. I was a nurse down the hill at Bach and when my 2 dear friends from up at MCS would visit me they would say, “Barb I don’t know how you can be a nurse and do this?” and I would Say, ” This is easy, but I don’t know how you can do what you do!” Then we would look at each other and we knew…God gave us our gifts and our love for what we each did. I count it such an honor to be chosen to have learned from both Eunice and Debby how to be the arms and voice of Jesus. Thank you Eunice. Thank you Deb. I hope we can meet again someday, but if not I look so forward to spending eternity with you and we will laugh a lot together, just like we did then!

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  2. This is great writing, thank you! I went to boarding school when I was 8, and have written some stories about my adventures there, it was quite an experience! :) I’m enjoying your posts.

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  3. Thanks so much for what you have written. I have a very good friend who has sent her children to MCS and I admire her because as a mum myself I know that it is a sacrifice. Having met her children i can honestly say that they were the best teens ever! They stayed with us for a weekend – I would have happily had them stay for a month.
    Decisions about where we send our children to school are personal. No one should criticise; just offer love and support and pray and thank God for people like my friend.

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  4. Marilyn, I teared up when I got to the place where you said you were honoring Eunice and Deb! They are both so precious–to this day and their continued relationships with so many of us–and are the reason, along with other special people, that I also have good memories of boarding. Thank you for highlighting the gift they are to us!

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  5. Thank you.
    Right from their birth, we gave each of our kids to God, but when we realised He was calling us to do it physically, to trust Him to look after our precious daughter 2 hours away by air, that was something else altogether… and then the second and the last. When they thrived, growing in their faith, nurtured by loving hostel parents, surrounded by Christian community, we could accept that this was from God and thank Him for it; When one or other struggled, it was a daily, sometimes minute by minute, coming back to God – Is this STILL right Lord; Is this still what you want for our family?
    To learn to share my kids; to accept that God had allowed others to parent them along with me has been one of the hardest lessons of my life. I am so thankful, now, for the mothers and fathers for whom my kids are still their kids.

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  6. Dear Mare, how honored I am to have been your housemother and now to be your friend. I cherish this and reading these kind and loving words are a deep joy to me. It is a wonderful thing to know that His grace and love can flow freely in our lives to one another, your love to me had added more than I can say to my life as well….and that dear mom of your has added much too! So thank you. This is especially meaningful to me as I am walking a very hard and sad path hand in hand with my own mom. I have been so blessed to have a Godly mom as you have. These days, although very undergirded by the Lord and His Words, are darkening days for my precious mom as her mind is moving into the twilight. I walk with her, at times the sadness is almost too much and at other times the strangeness of it all is also very heavy. Places of Light continue to be there, reading together from His Word is a great joy to her. I too am a very key part of her life…as my sister has said, now I am her mother in many ways, but somehow that doesn’t seem to be the way it should be. So this Mother’s Day was one of joy in her presence, but sorrow in her slowly going…but Hope and that word really has become a Name to me, Jesus….yes, Hope, as she goes to Him.

    Thank you again, Mare, this was joy at the end of a hard, but good day.

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  7. I wonder if someone has ever explored the difference between the families who choose boarding school to promote social ambition and those who use boarding school because of missionary lives. It would interesting to see studies about how the families and children view this, deal with this, etc.

    What a wonderful post, M! Thank you for tackling hard subjects!

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  8. As a current MCS mom I want to express my thanks for your words. Boarding school has been a wonderful experience for my high school son, but a great sacrifice for my husband and me. We have seen how our loving Father has done more then we could ask or imagine in our son’s life through his time in boarding.

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    1. Margy – Thanks so much for reading, for your honesty about how hard it is. Thinking of you as you walk this road and share your son with others who will and are writing on his life. Where do you live in Pakistan?

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      1. Marilyn – We are living in Lahore at Forman Christian College. Our two daughters (age 14 and 11) are with us while our 16 year old son is at MCS. In a few weeks we will be headed back to live in the U.S. after 5 amazing years here. Many of your blog posts have been helpful as I consider my kids’ transition as well as my husband’s and mine. Thanks so much.

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    2. Ohhh! I am slightly envious of you! Do your girls go to Lahore American School or do you homeschool? Also you must know the Tebbes. My brother just went through Lahore and was hosted by FC College. I hear great things about the growth and impact of the school. Great to hear that you are there.

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      1. Our girls are at Lahore American School. We have been glad to have them with us but being 2 out of only 4 American kids there has had its own challenges. We love the Tebbes. God has blessed FC College greatly by bringing the Tebbes here for this time. You definitely need to visit FC next time you get to PK. It is an exciting place to be these days. We are really sad to be leaving but have seen God clearly leading us back to US for a time to care for parents with hopes that we will be back again at another stage.

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  9. Marilyn this is such a sweet and well deserved tribute to two wonderful women who made it much easier for us to leave our children in a boarding school. We thank God for Eunice and Deb whose calling was as genuine as ours. And thank you for sharing.

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    1. Bettie – thank you so much. You have highlighted why they were so unique – their calling was specific and genuine. We weren’t an afterthought – we were part of the calling. I still remember when Nancy wrote to me about Deb Rupe telling me I would love her! I was in Massachusetts getting ready to come back and Nancy and I were going to just miss each other as you all were heading on home leave. Nancy was right!

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  10. Marilyn, I’m so glad to hear you had a positive boarding school experience. Mine, like so many others’, simply wasn’t. If you are interested, check out a brief piece I wrote about it here: http://outtasiteouttamind.com/2011/06/17/one-among-many/

    I was never under the impression, as a child, that the house parents we had ever felt ‘called’ to what they were doing. Instead, we felt that taking care of us was simply a stepping stone along the way; at best, a trial to endure.

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    1. Donna – thanks so much for this gracious comment. I just went to read your post – my heart goes out to you and the other kids – I can imagine that the journey to see yourselves as valuable to God and others would be uphill. I do think Murree was unique in some ways – but I know others who had a difficult experience. And some of those who wrote on my life wrote harsh words and hard discipline. Many of my memories are laced with grace and that is certainly a work of God’ spirit. Deb and Eunice have become even better friends to me through the years and that is a gift. Both would tell you they were uniquely called to this work and that made all the difference

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  11. Marilyn, how very touching to open your blog and find your loving words. Thank you. We have been rewarded over and over because of “kids” like you who still allow us into your lives. Your Mother shared you selflessly and let you be loved by others. I still remember her arriving after a three-day Landrover trip up from the Sind. They were trying so hard to get to the school before you were tucked into bed. You were in first grade and I puled you half asleep out of bed for her to have a cuddle. I still get teary when I think of her hugging you, then looking at you all over–noticing the teeth that had gone and the new ones come, stroking your hair that had likely never been brushed properly since she’d done it last. The sweetness was overwhelming.

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  12. Glad you had a good time in boarding school. Glad you had good housemothers.

    Your first paragraph condemns all of us who did not and speak of it. It hurts so much to once again to be told stop criticizing the bad boarding schools. If you understood you would have left off the first paragraph.

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  13. Heading to RVA tomorrow for a visit. I’m excited. I’ve heard so much about it from a college friend who went there and whose boys are there now.

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  14. I taught at Rift Valley Academy and loved the work I did there. I loved my students and hopefully became a mother to some of them. It is very hard to give up your children to someone else to grow in faith and love during very important years of their lives. I’m very thankful I was given that opportunity. Thank you for remembering your school “parent”. It means a lot.

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    1. Nancy – I’m so glad you came by and I loved reading this comment and hearing a bit of your story. Because when you’re a kid you’re particularly egocentric :) there are many of us that don’t realize until later that our boarding parents and teachers were human as well, subject to all the emotions and losses that we were. I’d love to hear more of your story! Thanks for coming by.

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