Sunday, April 5, 2015

And So It Begins: Welcome Home


The Teenager came home yesterday.

I waited for two hours, tracking her plane as it landed, sat on the tarmac for a bit, and then pulled into the gate. She cleared customs quickly and only requested a ginger ale be waiting when she came out for a turbulence-induced queasy belly.

I didn't recognize her immediately as she strode through the crowd at International Arrivals. Her hair was in a messy bun, and she was all in black; tall, confident. Then I saw her, a moment before she saw me. Her face lit up when our eyes met, and I had the pleasure of my teenaged daughter running to greet me in public.

I imagine this is just the beginning of the times I will be picking her up at airports.

I thought I would miss her more in the longing, lonely sense of missing someone, but mostly I just felt elated that she was out in the world and proud that I was able to send her there. There were definitely moments this week when I missed her chatter, and the hugs I got when I picked her up and before she went to bed were sorely missed, but mostly I was glad to have sent her off.

Parenting seems to always be a balance between two things. When they are little, you are balancing keeping them safe (i.e., poking their eye out on the corner of the coffee table) with letting them learn new things (like how to walk). In adolescence, right now it seems to be letting go and enfolding.

I have to let her leave me so that I can feel the pleasure of her return.

I have to let her make mistakes but then be there to figure out where to go from there.

She has to know that as much as I want her to come home I  want her to experience the world in equal measure.

These truths seem self-evident, but try it once. I am so proud of the woman she is becoming, but I still remember the fat wrists and the chubby cheeks. The tiny voice. The sweet smile and delicious kisses. I want her to take her time, to savor each part of life as it comes. Even grief, in its own way, is something that must be felt and experienced. I want her to slow down as life comes rushing towards her and carries her away from me like a leaf dancing on the surface of a stream.

So instead of moaning the loss of The Teenager to the world, this morning I am vowing that I will be her home, the one person she knows will always meet her at the gate, take her in, make sure her sheets are clean and that there is a juicy, mid-rare barbecue bacon burger with fries waiting.

I think that's our job as parents, really, to teach them to be independent and make good choices, then to send them out in the world to see how we did. I am just glad she is home and that I have her until the next time. Which may be sooner rather than later, as my evil plan seems to have worked and the travel bug has bitten.

Who are you home to?


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