This morning, we got up at four in the morning, ate, made tea, and hauled suitcases out to the car. I wrapped my arms around my thirteen-almost-fourteen-year-old girl-child and pressed my cheek to her ear. I curled my fingers around the globe of her skull. I smelled her hair and held her ponytail in my fist.
“Mom,” she said. “You’re crying again.”
“No I’m not,” I said, scooping a bucketload of tears from the hollows under my eyes.
My husband and I couldn’t both go to see her off because of the rules governing unaccompanied minors on airplanes (you can take your kid to the gate, but you must do it alone, and you must watch the child of your body go careening into the sky alone, and you must walk the lonely corridors of the airport alone. This is your fate.) so my husband went instead of me. I said goodbye in the kitchen.
She is scared. She is excited. She is both.
I am sending my firstborn infant into an airplane. And she will go off to camp for three weeks – three weeks! – with a bunch of other smarty-pantses at the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University and she will learn Cryptography. And she will probably get recruited by the CIA or some other spy organization that I have never heard of and I will never see her again. And she will sleep in dorms and eat in the cafeteria and talk to boys whose mothers I do not know.
And my heart is broken in pieces.
I prefer my children to stay on the ground.
I also prefer that they stay in their rooms and never grow up.
Both of these things are an impossibility.
Every day she becomes the woman that she will be, and every day she becomes more and more herself, and every day she leaves me behind. This is the way of things. Our children do not belong to us. They belong to themselves. And they belong to the world.
I just hope the world is grateful. Because, damn. That girl rules.
(And oh! I miss my girl.)