We took our eldest to the airport, seeing her off on a 3,500 mile journey as she prepares to begin a twelve month Master’s degree program in London. We expect her to make a brief trip home at Christmas. But we have learned that the person who leaves is never quite the same as the person who comes back.
We loved her before she was born. We were thrilled to have our first baby – a perfect little girl. She grew into a precocious toddler who learned to speak at an early age and who charmed family and friends with her sweet smile and friendly nature. Always at ease around people, she had to wear a harness and leash in malls so she wouldn’t walk off with someone else. On her first day of preschool at age three she pronounced it fun, but quickly added she couldn’t understand why “some kids cried.” Imagine our surprise at kindergarten open house when she introduced us to almost everyone in the building: other pupils, several teachers, and some of the office staff. In middle school she joined the band and then told us about it afterwards. When she started college 250 miles from home I wept as we drove away. She shed a few tears, but was quickly about the business of building new friendships and making her own life in a new city.
Now, our family home is simply a repository for her; a wayside stop. We are the temporary keepers of her possessions while she goes off to explore her new and much larger world.
To say we are incredibly proud of this young woman is an understatement. She is smart, caring, and outgoing. She has a history of working hard at the things she loves best. Often, she has achieved a level of excellence far beyond our expectations. She is brave and strong.
Helping our girls grow into poised, productive, young women has been a labor of enormous love. We tried so hard to have the right conversations about the right topics at the right times. We tried to balance structure and silliness to provide both stability and outlets for creativity. They earned the freedom to make their own choices and chase their own dreams. And so they chase…
From birth your child is never really “yours.” You set many examples (for better or worse) and you learn from each other – parents and child. But each one is born with an individual personality and immediately begins the process of learning to leave. First they learn to walk and talk and then they make airline reservations. Maybe not quite that quickly, but it seems like it.
We hugged and cried at the airport.
Sorrow at this parting? Certainly. Because we will miss her.
Sweet? Very. Because growing up and out is her birthright. This is part of the evolving parent-child relationship and the fulfillment of what we, and she, have worked for over the past 22 years. She is no longer our precocious toddler. This is her time to fly.