I just watched my older daughter get into a friend’s car and drive off for the airport. She’s taking a trip with another girlfriend to see their best friend in Colorado, who is turning 18 this weekend. Just 2 months ago I drove her to the airport myself for her first solo trip, helped her get her bag checked, got a pass from security to see her to the gate, and then came home. That was tough. Now a mere 8 weeks later she doesn’t need me to do those things, even, but instead pulls away from the house in another kid’s car and drives off into the morning with party music bumping them up the hill and on their way.
The trip will be good for her. Like the trip she made in November, this trip is a welcome distraction from challenges she is facing.
Her senior year has not gone as planned. Last year she decided where she wanted to go to school, and what her senior year would look like. Her visions were full of easy classes and milestones with her boyfriend and partying with her friends. Things like spring break and senior prom and graduation, then preparing to leave for college.
Well, turns out the classes are hard. By Thanksgiving, the boyfriend was gone, and with him the visions of romantic formals and their final year together. The spring break trip is too expensive and already full anyway, and as of yesterday, we’ve discovered that she can’t do what she wants to do at the school she wanted to go to, and there is nowhere else she wants to be, despite having other school options. So yeah, she’s just counting days on her fingers and gritting her teeth, trying to get through the rest of the year.
It has been hard for her. It’s been hard for us, too. While Eden is a very loving, sweet girl, she has a flair for the dramatic when she is unhappy. We’ve had tears, and eye rolls, and the ubiquitous “You don’t understand!”. She’s missed school, lost her appetite, and been Not Very Nice for stretches of time, until I point out that when things suck, nice still matters.
Yesterday she was really upset. She texted me from school, wanting to come home, and I said she had to stay. Some days you just have to tough it out. I had a busy day, and didn’t see her until after Lucy’s speech therapy appointment when I came home to make supper. Normally, she would make herself scarce in an effort to dodge babysitting while I make dinner. Last night she sat on the couch and talked to me while I cooked, about all of the things she was thinking and how lost she felt.
We continued the conversation with Allen over supper. Allen and I talked to her about this year and these events being her entry into the world of adulthood. Sometimes life is gentle and kind. Sometimes life throws you curve balls and ruins your plans and is a real bitch. And you reach an age where your parents can’t help you. You have to decide how you’re going to handle the unexpected. Strong people re-frame roadblocks as opportunities to go a new direction. When something shitty happens you can’t lie down, you have get mad and fight and make something better happen. One of Allen’s mom’s favorite quotes was, “Don’t ask ‘Why me?’, ask, ‘What next?'” And so that is what Eden is doing.
She started thinking and planning, and she sounded different. More mature. Like someone willing to adapt. By the time I went to bed I could hear her in her room, laughing excitedly on the phone with her best friend.
This morning she was happy, and energetic, and gave me a big hug before she drove off with her friend.
And I got choked up. Because that’s how it’s supposed to be, right? You raise them from childhood to be strong, confident people who can go out into the world and live productive, meaningful lives. And I watched her go knowing that she is both of those things, and sometime very soon she will be getting into her own car and driving away to her own place, and I will be done. I know “They” say you’re never really done, but I will be done with the part where she’s mine all the time, and it will be up to her to choose to come home. And it just went by so fast.
When the school year started in August, Lucy rode the bus to school for the first time and it just killed me. I wrote about that because I was so proud and worried and it felt like letting go of her somehow, and my friend Kim commented on the photo I used of Lucy sitting in her seat saying, “Your heart on a bus.”
Well, today, I felt the same pride and worry, the same, heart-squeezing feeling of letting go as I watched Eden drive off for the airport.
Today, it’s my heart on a plane.