I’m not ready…
My daughter will, in five short days, board a flight to Ghana, solo. I’m not ready. Ok, maybe I’d never be ready, but, I mean, really, Ghana? I remember the first time she flew solo from our home in San Jose to her father’s home in Sacramento. She was 11, maybe. It seems like yesterday…the nervousness, the sweaty palms, the worry. I sat in that airport terminal and watched that plane taxi and take off, never taking my eyes off of it until I could not longer see it. I watched the clock as the minutes passed by and answered that call from her when she landed before it could finish the first ring. Never mind that I spent all those agonizing minutes in the airport wine bar. I’m telling you, that booze took none of the edge off my parental nightmare.
I know this trip is an amazing opportunity for her. I know she is beyond excited to go. She will be with 30 or so other kids, all looking to make the same sort of impact on the world as she is. I’m immensely proud of her big, tender, joyful heart. I’ve read and reread the brochure, the stories shared by kids and parents alike who have made this same trip in summers past. It’s fantastic what these kids can accomplish when their hearts and minds are channeled toward the greater good. It’s impressive. But I’m still not ready.
Honestly, there are so many things that could go wrong. Right? And not just little things either. I’ve no idea what kind of bugs exist in that part of the world. What if she gets bit by some poisenous tree frog? Or carried away by a gang of malicious monkeys? What if she gets sick and needs me? What if the other kids are mean to her? What if she gets homesick? OH MY GOD, WHAT IF SHE DOESN’T???? (Cue the sad music, maestro!)
I think what this really boils down to is a mothers inability to grasp reality. No, just kidding. It’s about MY inability to grasp reality. She will turn 16 in Ghana. It’s a major milestone in her evolutionary journey that I will not be part of. When my son turned 16, I was in China, so hey, tables turned! My daughter is a very mature, thoughtful, caring and responsible young lady. There is no doubt that this trip will be a lot harder on me than on her. And everyone knows it. I have no shortage of friends who have expressed their concern over my mental stability during her absence, offering to spend time with me to keep my spirits up (and my sanity on its already precarious ledge). I’m not sharing any secrets here.
My girl and I have travelled to many countries, far and wide. She is an experienced wanderer, she knows the ins and outs of many an airport, and, more importantly, she knows how to adjust to new places. She spent four weeks in a bungalow with no hot water, no flush toilet, and a LOT of bugs. She knows her way around. I really have nothing to worry about there. She will acclimate, of that I am sure. She is more organized than anyone I know. She has already packed, for goodness sakes. She has checked and double-checked her packing list. All we have to do now is wait. And it is now, in this waiting, that my mind and my heart are attempting to comes to terms with her soon-to-be absence.
I have hatched and banished many a plan for dealing with this situation head on. Plan A, head to Paris for those three weeks, presumably to occupy myself with the many museums and other culturally amazing experiences in order to lessen my focus on my sudden alone-ness, but in all honestly, it’s a lot closer to Ghana than California. I could get to her a whole lot quicker in the event of an emergency. As it turns out, it’s really expensive to stay in Paris. Not the most cost effective way of handling my anxiety. Ok, Plan B. I could just go to Ghana and not tell her. Higher airfare, but much lower lodging cost. I’d be right there and she’d never need to know. Unless, you know, something happened and then, of course, she’d be thrilled I was right there, right? But then I realized, I’d have to lie every day for three weeks when we Skype about exactly where I was. (And yes, I’m sure she will want to Skype with her mother every day of her three week trip, so don’t burst my bubble.)
In truth, there’s no place on this earth that will change how much I will miss her, so I might as well stay home and talk to my cats about how long the days and nights are without her home. We will agonize our way through each day (ok, they’ll sleep, I’ll agonize), lamenting the dullness of our lives without her to shine her love in it, but embracing the glorious truth that she is probably having the time of her life. I’ll organize my closet, clean out the fridge (by eating its entire contents), write more, work more, see my friends as much as they’ll put up with me, and before you know it, I’ll be heading back to New York to pick her up. And when she walks off that plane and into my arms, I will hug her until she says “mom, please, I can’t breathe.” Yes, that’s what I’ll do. Because, really, what other choice do I have?