I just returned from putting the middle one on an airplane. She is traveling alone for THE VERY FIRST TIME! which strikes a chord in my bosom consisting of maternal pride, vague sorrow, and sheer terror. She is completely ready for this, but I’m not sure I am! How did we get to the point where I could put my child on a plane and have complete confidence in her ability to navigate an unknown airport in another state on the other end? Wasn’t it just yesterday I was wrestling her into her car seat, striving to fasten the straps while she arched her back? Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts and return your trays to their upright position…
I am so excited for her to take this trip. I couldn’t wait for her to experience the rush of the airport, rife with possibilities. I love traveling and I love the airport. I pine for the days before terrorists ruined everything; the days when you could walk practically onto the plane (okay, the gate) with your people and watch it take off. I loved that you could meet dear ones as they stepped off the plane, wearing crazy hats and playing kazoos. The fact that they would walk right by as if they had never seen you before was immaterial.
Here is an awesome secret! (Most of you probably already knew this, but it was news to me!) If you have an unaccompanied minor traveling THEY LET YOU STILL DO IT! All I had to do was ask for a gate pass, and with no argument whatsoever I was in. It was just like the good old days. Except I had to take off my shoes, and stand in a cone of silence while it scanned me for unwanted objects. And then show the TSA agent my ankle??!!! Did it look somehow suspicious? If they are looking for unwanted objects they could have the jiggle in my thighs. I certainly don’t want that, but I guess it isn’t really a foreign object.
The people watching. The moving sidewalks. The information boards clicking off arrivals and departures. I felt like a junkie that had fallen off the wagon.
Clearly, we do not travel by plane very often. My dad did, and I know he grew to despise it. But when it is a rare treat, it is a thrill to be there with all those anonymous people going to mysterious places. Or Omaha. It truly doesn’t matter, it’s the act of GOING that is magical.
However. When you are taking a tall beautiful girl, and letting her go, ALL ALONE, it is a slightly different tale. Okay, she is only going for a week, she is meeting good friends on the other end and spending a blissful week at the beach and Disney. It’s not like I’m shipping her off to China for two years to perform hard labor. It just feels like it. And I challenge any mother out there to look me deep in the eyes and say they would feel differently. Deep in their souls.
But it is time. She needs to take this next step on that road to independence. I need her to take it. It is part of my job to suck it up and let her go. I did stand at the gate until the plane pulled away. I could just see the pilots through the windows, and I Spock-like tried to brain-meld them to BE CAREFUL. PAY ATTENTION. GET THAT BIRD UP AND DOWN SAFELY. Like that’s not their job. Like there weren’t a bunch of other people important to someone on that plane. But MY important person is! As I used to say to my sister-in-law when she would travel long distances with my nieces and nephew Drive carefully. Precious cargo aboard!
I’m not one of those clingy moms who can’t let their kids go. Really I’m not. My dirty little secret is that sometimes I LIKE to see them go. But I still feel oddly bereft. She will now have stories to tell us that we are not a part of. Stories that will be uniquely hers to tell. She is going to gain a self-confidence she never could at home. An opportunity to prove to herself what she is capable of. Remember the first time I flew alone?
I said to Sam last night, I don’t want to go with her (well, maybe a little – not so much about her as my own wanderlust), but I wish I could creep on her just a little bit. Peek around corners and watch as she sees new things, tastes new foods, explores new vistas. Thank heaven above for social media that will allow me to do just that, even if she has carefully curated what I see.
This is just the beginning of the end. It’s not really even that – I’m being a wee bit melodramatic. We send one off to college next year, which I am already pre-grieving. What a good use of my time that is! But this is what we had children for in the first place. To grow up, and fly the nest, and be productive adults that please God. That, and to take care of us in our old age. They are going to love that! Oh, and give us grand-babies. No pressure. Truly.
So my beautiful girl, fly! Enjoy the journey. We will be here in the nest when you come back, ready to listen to all your stories. And just so you know, I stood looking out the window at your plane until you were in the air.