When I noticed that an overnight trip was a part of the 3rd grade curriculum at my daughter’s school, I furrowed my brow for a sec. But I shrugged and thought, “No biggie, I’ll just make sure I’m one of the chaperones.” Until I found out that parents weren’t allowed to chaperone. Not one. Then I realized that for me, this trip had become the first step in the arduous process of letting go of my child.
Journey has been preparing me for this day, well, I guess since she was born. She never had separation anxiety and has always had an independent spirit. When she was old enough to walk into the daycare center, she would say, “Bye mommy!” and never look back. I quickly learned to pick my hurt feelings up off the floor and eventually I got over it. In time, I even learned to appreciate it.
Now, almost nine years later, Santa has had his last visit and the love of all things princess has faded. Before I know it, Barbie will be replaced with boys. I try not to hold on too tight, but sometimes when I hug her I just want time to stop, I want to freeze the moment so I don’t forget her face. It’s changed so much over the years and I want to remember them all. I want to remember every time she’s made me laugh. Every time she’s scared me half to death. Every time she’s made me proud. Every little popcorn-paper mache-beaded-popscicle stick-Mother’s Day-Christmas present-birthday gift that she has ever given me. I want to remember it all.
Even though a part of me doesn’t want to let go, the other part knows that my role is about to change and I’ve got to get ready. In the next few years, I will go from manager of my child’s life to consultant. When she is somewhere between the ages of 12 and 15, I will be fired! No more making all her plans, picking out her clothes, or keeping her away from kids I don’t like. That’s all up to her now. Good or bad, she’ll make her own decisions. But if I play my cards right, I’ll be rehired as a consultant. She’ll come to me for advice and I can use my influence to help her make the right decisions.
So between now and then, I have to make sure she has all the tools and life skills she needs to be successful. I’ve got to be careful to nurture but not coddle. To push her to do things for herself instead of doing them for her. To encourage her to ask questions, voice her opinion, and listen when she speaks. To let her fight her own battles and make her own mistakes. To let her spread her wings and not clip them with my fears and anxiety. To be okay with knowing that she will not always like me (or my decisions), but she will always love me.
When it was time to leave for the trip, all of the parents were there to say goodbye. I gave her a big hug and kiss (I was allowed since all the parents were there) as she got on the bus. Afterwards, I texted my family to let them know that she was on her way to which my mom replied, “You have done an amazing job raising her. She has all the tools she needs to make the right decisions. Think about yourself. I did an amazing job too! Haha!” As usual, mom was right. So far I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do to make sure that she can take care of herself. I took a deep breath and smiled.
The school provided the hotel phone number and said we could call to say goodnight and that the kids could call us as well. I resisted the urge to call and patiently waited for her to call instead. She didn’t. The next morning I saw that I missed a call while I was getting dressed. I played the message and it was one of my daughter’s friends pretending to be her saying that she was fine and missed me. I could hear her laughing in the background. I smiled. She is fine.