A Few Scattered Thoughts on Boarding School…

(…while my youngest daughter is away at camp) Fridays with Robynn.


Bronwynn left for camp on Sunday. We drove her to a friend’s house and one of the other moms drove a group of giggling, excited, anxious little girls off to camp.

I never went to camp.

When I was eight my parents moved to Pakistan.

A month later, when I was newly nine, they sent me to boarding school – An excited, anxious little girl.

Chai, Pakistan, Murree
Old chai shop across from the gates of our boarding school

I didn’t go alone. My brother, younger than me by nearly three years, went too. As did my two cousins. We were accompanied most of the way by my dad and my uncle. And then we were tucked into a van for the last two hours of the journey and delivered safely to the school.

It was a difficult decision for my parents to make but it was woven into the larger decision to move to Pakistan. If they made that choice, then they knew they also made the choice to send us to boarding school. It must have been agonizing for them. It must have been one of the hardest things they ever had to settle.

All things considered, I had a positive experience at school. But it’s also true that I was terribly homesick and heartbroken. I was forced to grow up very quickly. I was exposed to unfamiliar routines and rhythms. I felt the heavy responsibility to care for my brother. Unkind adults said unkind things. The bible was occasionally used as a means to control us children. God and Satan were often summoned to enforce that control.

Mom and dad lived under the pressure from the community to send us to boarding. It was expected. It really was their only option. But they also lived under the burden of pressure from their extended family and supporters. Constantly they had to cope with the soul racking questions like, “How could you possibly send your children away?”, “Don’t you miss them?”, Could you live as missionaries in ministry and not Focus on (your) Family?.

As children we also were asked those questions on furloughs, or in letters, or by (insensitive) visiting friends or family. And how could we possibly bear to answer them honestly under the concerned, agonizing, scrutinizing, pleading looks of mom and dad? They so desperately needed us to be ok. They needed us to answer in such a way to give their souls some relief from the torment they lived with. They needed to know that the decision they had made was ok, that we, their precious little people, their sacred trust, their beloved children, were going to be alright.

And I felt the timing of those questions and the moment of waiting for the answers to be heavy and loaded and crucial to everyone’s happiness and well-being..and so I said only that I loved boarding school. It was hard to be away from my parents but I loved my friends and I loved school.

Mostly that was true.

But there were other things that were true too that I didn’t say.

Today I go to collect Bronwynn and all the other little girls and bring them safely home.

It’s been an interesting week of nostalgia and introspection for me as the mom. I’ve relived my little girl days. I’ve thought more about what it was like for my parents. I know camp and boarding school are vastly different…but this week has given me a small glimpse into their experience of sending us off to strangers. And it’s been hard in ways I didn’t expect. I have felt sad for them. I have borrowed their worn-out shoes and tried them on for just a bit…and they fit funny, they feel weird.

My feet hurt, pinched, tight. I know God gave them grace to wear those shoes…and I know he’s given me the gift of trying them on, for just a few days.

Add to the discussion...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s