We’ve got a Spanish exchange student staying this week. She is 14. She barely speaks. Daughter two is her exchange partner. She is also 14. She speaks a lot to us, but has virtually ignored her exchange partner. The only people who speak to the exchange student are me, my partner and a very enthusiastic only son.
Only son just maintains a sort of stream of consciousness chatter at her about fidget spinners, football and general observations on things. “You know, A, I was a bit nervous about you coming here because I thought you might be a bit rude,” he began the other day. “But actually you are very nice.” The fortunate thing is that I don’t think the Spanish exchange student understands a word he is saying. Only son has forced the poor girl to play football and Lego Batman 3 with him.
We took everyone to Southend at the weekend as there was a big get-together of exchange students and their exchange partners. “We’re meeting between 12 and 1 at the entrance,” announced daughter two, which seemed to be a rather vague time to me, but who am I to know? We arrived at two minutes to one. There was a group of students waiting. They were all English. “Where are the Spanish students?” I asked. Apparently they had all gone off together. We caught sight of daughter two a few times during the day. She was in the English group. A was with the Spanish team. I’m not sure there is a lot of exchange going on.
A has been spending a lot of time on her own in daughter two’s room online to her family and friends. I keep going in and inviting her to come and watch a film or play Just Dance or something. Nothing. I caught her with her suitcase on her bed the other night. It looked like she was packing. “I think she’s planning to escape,” I told my partner. “We are useless hosts.”
All hopes are now pinned on daughter one’s exchange student who arrived on Sunday. She was the first to alert us to the terrible news from Finsbury Park. Her parents had texted her before 7am to alert her.
Meanwhile, at the end of every day, I sit with the kids, read stories with only son and get everyone ready for bed. At the forefront of my mind are those parents in Grenfell Tower who must have done the same with their children on the night of the fire, expecting to wake up and begin another day in the morning.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.