And then they fly away.

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.

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(And oh! I miss my girl.)

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4 thoughts on “And then they fly away.

  1. I cried when I read this post, Kelly, and I remembered my own tears when my only daughter edged ever farther into the world and away from me – how an ache filled my chest whenever I saw a mother and daughter walking down the street hand in hand – how I missed that little hand that was gone forever because it grew into an adult hand. When she was gone away to her first year of college in California – 1800 miles away from me!!! – I pulled her dance videos off the shelf and watched her lovely figure prance across the screen and sobbed my heart out. But if you’re patient a new child enters your life. The adult version. In my case she’s recently brought her family – family! – to live in the house her father and I raised her in. How lucky, beautiful, and glorious is that? And her children. Well, there are new child-sized hands in my life. It’s not the same but it’s good.

    • Parenting is weird. It’s a love-affair predicated on tragedy. It’s a good thing we don’t know this in our twenties, otherwise I’m sure we’d just stop procreating.

  2. She will always be your daughter and you will always be her mother. Getting out of the way is part of being a parent. I know it is much more difficult for Mom than it is for Dad. I hope she has a wonderful time and that you won’t worry too much.

  3. This is tough to read. My daughter is 17. She will be a senior this fall. She just got back from a school trip to Europe. Our whole family brought her to the airport, but none of us were allowed to go to the gate.

    Every time I think of saying goodbye to her, I think of Kahlil Gibran:

    “… Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
    You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
    You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth …”

    Good luck, Kelly.

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