It’s been three months (at least) since I posted on the saga of trying to get my teenaged son to France. It’s been a busy three months, but I wanted to continue to share this “interesting” process of bringing a minor into the country to live with HIS MOTHER!
To recap, the French Consulate in Washington DC would not give him a Visa because I, his mother, live in France. If I did not live here, he could get a student Visa to come live with a stranger and go to school. OFII offered Family Regroupment, but I’m not yet eligible until December to apply and then it could take a year for an answer. They told me to get the student Visa (back to DC). In short, we spent months going in circles. An international lawyer from Marseille advised us to bring him over on his passport. She said they can’t expel him from France because he is a minor.
So that’s what we did. Finding no proper paperwork solution available, we bought him a ticket and he arrived this summer.
First, I would like to say that once he arrived, all of the frustrations disappeared, for the most part. He is here, and that’s all that matters now. I’ve seen my son three times in the past year. He was living with his father in the U.S. and planning to finish high school there. But circumstances caused a change in that plan and he’s going to finish school here in France, and live with me.
Second, I would like to break from the saga (I’ll continue in the next post) of getting him here, and write about what it’s like to leave a child behind in another country. I’ve avoided this topic, because it’s too painful.
I married a Frenchman, and without going into details now about the reasons why, besides the obvious, I moved here. My kids, both teens and at a stage when they were rarely around, urged me to move to France. They thought it would be good for me after some very difficult years. And of course, they knew I was in love with this charming Frenchman and they saw that he absolutely adored me. For a long time I resisted, for many reasons, but in January 2011, my kids both looked at me one night and said, “Mom, just go.” To be honest, I was miserable, and I think I was making them miserable, as much as I was trying to make a good life as a single mom for the first time in 20 years. I was divorced.
And so, I quit my wonderful job as a faculty member at the university, and I headed to France. I was married in May 2011. The kids came for six weeks that summer and then went back to the States to finish school. I went to the U.S. for a few weeks in January 2012, my son came to France for a few weeks in March, and my daughter spent an entire month in France this last May, 2012. So, I’ve seen them fairly frequently, and they’ve had the wonderful opportunity to spend a good deal of time in France.
But if you’re a mother, you can imagine what it’s like not to see them on a daily basis. We Skype, thanks to the magic of the Internet. But it’s not the same. As happy as I was to be with my new husband and as much as I love France, my heart breaks everyday that I am not with my kids.
My daughter graduated from high school. She’s living and working in D.C. and plans to start school there soon. This is a normal breaking process, I’m aware. And so, with her, it’s different. I’m experiencing the usual “empty nest” emotions. Things could have very well been the opposite: she could have moved to France to study and I may have seen her less in the past year than I have.
But with my son, who is now 17, it’s different. He still needs his mom. And no, I’m not being sappy. He’s admitted the same. He’s missed me. There are still many reasons why a 16-year-old boy needs a mom around.
This is a very difficult post for me to write, because there’s a great deal of guilt associated with my decision to move to France. Did I do the right thing? I still don’t know the answer, but I’ve stopped asking the question. Life throws curves, and we deal with them the best we can. Maybe in years to come, when I look back on these years, I’ll know the answer. I’m hoping that we’ll find these were difficult years, but worth it.
And so, we’ve had a wonderful summer together. He loves France, too. He says it’s like living in a post card everyday. He appreciates the beauty of Camargue. And he’s staying. He’s decided to finish school here.
He started school in France last week. His start date was a few weeks behind everyone else because of the school saga (next post), but he’s installed and loving it!
I don’t usually write such personal posts, but as one of the topics in my blog is moving and living in France, it seemed only right that I should share this part of my experience. I’ve met many people in person and online who are strangers here, like me. We all have different stories and circumstances. But I’ve learned that behind the joys of living abroad, there are often some sacrifices and hardships that we endure.
So, what’s next? I’m still not sure what comes next. I still don’t know what I need to do as far as paperwork goes. I’ll probably have to work with that international lawyer to keep my son here. But he’s here. And I’m one very happy mom.
I’m having this good sensation that it’s all going to work out and be worth it.