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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Declaration of Independence

"You teach your kids to be independent."

I heard this often muttered by my mother as I was growing up. The words tend to ring in my ear a bit. As I think back on it, I believe Mom might have been speaking out loud more as an encouragement to herself than as a lesson for my young self. Because learning to become independent can hardly be as difficult as learning to let go.

My daughter is on a two-week visit to The Netherlands. I'm elated about this opportunity for her, since I, myself, have never been to Europe. But there's this gigantic pit in my stomach as I attempt to absorb her absence in the house. How will I ever survive her away in college?

When we bid her farewell at the airport, I couldn't even speak. I attempted some words, but only ended up choking up a few incoherent phrases. "Fun time. Really. Love you. Pieces." (The tears in her father's eyes didn't help.) Finally, I straightened up enough to hug her tightly and kiss her goodbye. I held strong as we watched her skip through security. Then I went straight to the restroom and sobbed.

It's not like I never saw it coming. Her independent soul, I mean. When she was young and my hubby was away, I'd attempt to coax her into cuddling with me in our bed. She'd politely decline. She's a girl who appreciates her space. Of course, my son made up for this in the next few years...I think we finally broke him of crawling in bed with us when he was eight. (Independence might be a trickier lesson for him, I'm guessing.)

Alex was always the one to wander off by herself. I remember once after fiddling with the baby in the stroller, I turned around to find I had lost her in the mall. Completely. After a few frantic minutes and shuffling through the crowd, I had found her at the entrance of the restroom. She blinked at me blankly, telling me she needed to go potty. Duh. She still wanders off to places. Still forgets to tell me where she's going.

But truthfully, I'm proud of my daughter: her wanderlust and resourcefulness. I hope she never loses her curiosity to explore and see the world. We told her if she wanted to go to Europe, she'd need to pay for it. And she did...(most of it anyway). I received an email from the mother of the family she's staying with. She informed me how kind and enjoyable Alex is...they'd just as soon keep her. This made me smile–not because they wanted to keep her. But because it reminded me of why there's a pit in my stomach. And that having her fly out of our nest might just be a bigger transition for me than her!

As we walked out of the airport, Cole said, "I hope I never have the opportunity to go to The Netherlands." Obviously, in his mind, he'd be obligated to go no matter what his preference. So. My son isn't too excited about leaving the lair. I realize his 12-year-old heart could change on the matter, but at this point, I felt a certain comfort with his admission.

After all, our basement is pretty sweet. And could be sweet for him for many years to come. And I'm just really learning about this independence stuff.

Away she goes...

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