I haven’t written much about the oldest in a while. She’s eighteen now, spending most of her time elsewhere. Her story is increasingly her own, not mine to tell.
Recently a chapter closed in that story, a new one began not just for her but for the rest of us as well. I drove her to the airport and put her on a plane, a plane headed to the other side of the country where family will be waiting to receive her. She’ll have a new place to lie her head, a new job and new friends to find and make. She’ll finish the last steps towards acquiring her driver’s license and will look to continue her education. A fresh start in a new place, hopefully freed of some of the baggage that she just never seemed to be able to shake off here. She’s nervous but excited, sad but hopeful.
It was a reflective ride home, the twelve years since she entered my life rewound. The good times and bad, the mistakes and lessons learned, the transition from “girlfriend’s kid” to “daughter.” The paradox of how quickly that time seemed to go by but also how long ago my life before them now seems.
It was a time to wonder if I had done enough, if we had adequately prepared her for the challenges that she will inevitably face but also a time for pride, to admire the courage that she showed walking towards that terminal and her new life. Nervous but excited, sad but hopeful, feelings that I shared with her as I watched from afar, not ready to leave until she had passed through TSA and turned that last corner towards Concourse A.
It was a reminder to cherish this time with her little sister, the same age now as when I first met Kayla. A reminder that this time, this influence that I now hold, this opportunity to shape who she one day becomes, is finite, not to be wasted.
Upon returning home I had two messages waiting for me, one each on my home phone and my cell, as well as an e-mail, all from my own mother. She wanted to be sure that everything had gone OK, that Kayla had been delivered safely and without complication. She wanted to make sure everybody was feeling alright and that I was getting enough sleep. She wanted to make sure that I was aware of the upcoming snowstorm and was prepared for a potential power outage.
This was my last reminder of the day, that parenting doesn’t end just because addresses change and conversations turn from every day to twice a week. That this is a lifelong job. That the particular responsibilities may change, the challenges and rewards ever different, but the worry remains.
Today I put the oldest on a plane, the little bird leaving the nest in the most metaphorical way possible. I have no doubt that she will fly, my main concern being that she remembers to brush her teeth.
Should I text her and remind her to brush her teeth?
Previously published on thirstydaddy
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Photo credit: Jeremy Barnes