I thought that handing over my firstborn infant to a babysitter the very first time was rather scary.
I thought that leaving my five-year-old child in a Kindergarten classroom that first day of school was a little scary.
I thought that moving to a new state and watching my daughter start another elementary school where we didn’t know a soul was a little scary.
I thought that dropping my child off alone at a neighborhood bus stop, in pre-dawn darkness with tears welling in her eyes, to start middle school was a little scary.
I thought that leaving her in front of a movie theater to meet a teenage boy I had never met was a little scary.
I thought that sending my child off with a complete stranger in their car for driver’s training was a little scary.
I thought that watching that 16-year-old, with a brand-new driver’s license in her pocket, drive off all alone was pretty scary.
I thought that leaving my child on the opposite side of the country to begin college was a little scary.
I thought that seeing her depart solo through airport security to go study abroad on the opposite side of the world was a little scary.
But I didn’t even know how scary things could get
And yesterday, that child of mine, now in graduate school (still on the opposite side of the country), left us once again. After over four straight months of being safe within our little, family bubble – courtesy of a virus that has changed the world.
In some ways, it felt a tiny bit like her first day of Kindergarten all over again.
Instead of clutching a small, colorful backpack with a snack and a brand-new box of crayons tucked inside, she was armed with a bag full of masks, disinfectant wipes and several small bottles of hand sanitizer.
And it was slightly scarier than any other good-bye we’ve ever experienced.
I kept wondering why it seemed so frightening and felt so heavy. She is an adult for goodness sake.
Then I realized the source of my uneasiness. It was because she was setting off to do something that I myself had never done before. In the past, even when I felt a little scared for her as she embarked on a new adventure, I had a sense of knowing that it would all be OK. Because I had done all those things before, and had confidence she’d come through them fine, like I had.
But here she was, leaving the house to get on a plane for a five-hour flight, to live in a city without any family around, during a worldwide pandemic – things I have not done in this crazy, new reality.
This time she was leaving, going into the unknown
She was entering unknown territory and we didn’t really have much of a clue as to what she would exactly experience.
So, I worried. Like a mom does.
And I hoped she’d know how to deal with things like a seat mate who took off their mask once they were in flight. Or a fellow traveler who refused to stay physically distanced in a boarding line.
But she did just fine. Even with an unscheduled stop and layover in another city, due to thunderstorms.
She eventually arrived safely at her apartment and immediately started back to some of her pre-pandemic habits, sending funny texts today, running errands, and starting a new routine.
Like most of our kids routinely do, she handled the slightly scary unknown without any problems, and despite her worried mom who didn’t take a deep breath until we knew she was safely “home” again. And the day’s events reinforced the fact that a parent never, ever stops worrying about their children.
Moms never stop parenting or worrying
Because the path of life is a bumpy one, and sometimes we don’t have a personal roadmap for what our kids are experiencing. It is normal for us to fear the unknown, and currently there are a lot of unknowns. But even if our hearts are sometimes filled with fear, we must listen to our heads and accept that our kids need to experience those uncomfortable and scary events. For that is how they forge the bravery to keep tackling life’s curves and potholes.
One of those naïve, pre-parenthood thoughts I once harbored was that by the time my children had finished college, my worrying days would be over. How utterly ridiculous that seems now. But if this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that there is nothing more precious in the world than our families. And their safety.
And our children, no matter their biological age, will always retain a spirit that remains forever childlike in our hearts. Especially in scary and uncertain times like we are all experiencing now. Our collective new normal will continue to feel a little unnerving for a while.
The simple truth is that the scary parenting moments never end, but we handle them progressively better each time, and get a little braver each year.
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