Tonight my daughters will leave on a trip with their grandparents. It’s the first time they will be away from our protective gaze, and won’t be in places they usually stay overnight, that are only a 20 minute car ride away. They’ll be several states away, spanning hundreds of miles. I’m not worried about who they will be traveling with or who they are going to visit. I have full faith in the people involved. My girls seem excited, my five-year old has moments of apprehension when she ponders being gone from home for 8 days. The three-year old has no clue what “8 days” means, no frame of reference. She just knows she going to a beach. Their mother is taking great care in packing their bags, working out her anxiety in her own way. Her own way consists of fretting and controlling as much as she possibly can. To ensure they’re prepared, to ensure they enjoy themselves. Labeling and sorting each outfit for each day, taking great pride in organizing their travel bags. She’s been coordinating and conferring with all the other adults involved, namely her mother and sister. It’s her process…
To be honest, I had blocked out the fact that they are going altogether, for weeks leading up to this day. I suppose that’s part of my process. Now, I feel like a “helicopter parent”, which is now a backhanded pejorative in our modern lexicon. I wanna know the route they will travel and where the people responsible for my girls, plan to stop. Now all the sudden, I want to control the situation, but I can’t. This is where the painful process of letting one’s children actually grow into independent people begins. I realized what little control I will have in five years, even less in ten. Fifteen years down the road–I will have no role in their decision making process, whatsoever. Fifteen years down the road, I will have to trust in the foundation I’m laying now.
Their mother and I are choosing the people the girls are traveling with and where the girls will be staying. In fifteen years, they will be making those decisions. I have to trust that what I’m teaching them now, will instill the same discernment I use, as their father. That is my job, after all. Not to be their life-long protector, but to teach them to protect themselves. Most of the time, protection is easiest attained through preemptive measures. That is to say, making good decisions that do not put oneself in dangerous or compromising situations. My friends with kids who are similar ages to my girls, are going through same process. They are dealing with it through their own process. Handling and digesting their own anxiety, in whatever way they go about the wrapping their head around a uncomfortable reality.
That is the larger over all process, that parents face everyday. My daughters trip is nothing special or unique, to anyone but me, their mother, and maybe few other people. Just like they will eventually learn about their birth and life on this earth–it is nothing special. It’s the truth. A truth, I will one day have to explain to my girls. Yet another first I’m dreading.