The following are a sample of text messages between my Mother and me, after my teenage daughter left the country for a community service trip:
Mom: Have you heard from your daughter? (Tuesday 2pm)
Me: Yes. Arrived safely. (Tuesday 2:05)
Mom: Did you hear from daughter? (Tuesday 11pm)
Me: Not since this morning. (Tuesday 11:05pm)
Mom: Did you hear from your daughter? (Wednesday 10am)
Me: Not expecting her to contact me. (Wednesday 10:05 am)
And this exact same pattern kept repeating, at increasingly smaller intervals, until I received the following text:
Mom: Don’t you care about your daughter? (Thursday 11pm)
(Here’s a short disclaimer about my Mom- she is a tad overprotective. And lets just say, if I ever have to make a parenting decision, I always think, “What would my Mom do?” and then I go about 160 degrees off that and come up with my plan/decision.)
And for the record, I care about my daughter very much. So much, that I know I need to give her just a little bit of freedom right now. That is the whole purpose of this trip. For her to learn to survive without me being her safety net.
Of course I am worried about her well being. The kids are going to go rafting and ziplining and all sorts of activities that required signing about a million waivers. She is thousands of miles away from me right now. When I did “Find my iPhone” (yes- I did this) it was bizarre to see all that distance, to see the icons as tiny little dots because they were so far apart. It was not so bizarre to see the signal coming from a Starbucks- obviously she was observing the local culture in a foreign habitat. And no- I will probably not have a really sound sleep until she comes home. But that is part of being a parent- we kind of glide through the sleeping portion of our lives.
Though I worry about her well being, I also worry about her ability to function as an adult. They don’t turn 18 and get a manual stating- “You’re an adult now. Here’s the instructions. FYI- they were written by the same people who write instructions for self-assemble furniture.” So they need to practice- baby steps, so to speak. They need to do laundry, and cook food and learn to budget both their money and their time. They need to problem solve- on their own- without anyone stepping in. They need to learn how to be self-sufficient. And they need to do this before they leave home for good. (At least what we assume is leaving home for good)
While I miss my daughter, I am happy that she is managing without me. I am hoping that her laundry ends up the same color that it started. I am glad she is managing sharing a room with someone she does not know. I am happy that she is figuring out the language and cultural differences of a place she has never been. I am glad that she has not felt the need to call me. I am thrilled that she has learned how to say Frappuccino in Spanish. I am hoping above all else that she is realizing what a strong, self-sufficient person she has become.
Of course, I hope to eventually get an email, or a text, just a hi, or an XO (though my only communication will most likely be a picture from the tour company, of my daughter standing on a table and dancing.) But in my heart I know she loves me and I know she feels loved. And I guess that’s really the job of a parent- to make sure you’re child knows they are loved, whether you’re next door, or a few thousand miles away.