“Mom, I want to take a trip by myself.”
“That’s cool. Where to?”
“What the hell? I thought you meant to the Grand Canyon or something like that.”
“No, I’ve already researched it. Look at this hotel. It’s near everything and I would be able to see the Northern Lights. I’ve already saved up for half of it.
Here we are again. In that awkward place between wanting to protect, shield and be in charge of everything your child does, and knowing you need to give them room to spread their wings.
My daughter is 19 years old. She’s witnessed me struggling to make ends meet, setting goals, achieving some and losing sight of others, and always striving to make our lives better. Now here she is presenting to me (very maturely – which was kinda annoying at the time) something that she wants to do that will place her very far outside of my comfort zone.
My immediate reaction is to tell her “No. Are you crazy?!?!?!”
She had just returned from Virginia to visit her dad and his family. I was comfortable with that. She was going to be around family when she arrived. She has flown out to Virginia before on her own. Nothing to worry about really.
But now she is asking to fly overseas. I won’t be able to control this at all. I’m going to be extremely limited in the ways I could possibly help her if she needed it. And she knows absolutely no one in Iceland. Will she be safe? Will she be able to make all her flights? Is she mature enough to handle going to a foreign country and having to figure things out? Will she get completely overwhelmed??
The “let me think about it” line bought me some time.
So I thought about the proposed trip and this child I raised. I thought about how she’s always felt more mature than other kids her age. About what a good work ethic she has, and how she’s already an assistant manager of a retail store at 19. And I realized that if I told her she couldn’t go, I would be contradicting the example I set for her – to not just dream about something, create a plan and actually go after it.
In the end, she got the green light, but still trying to wield some kind of control, I talked her into an international cruise instead of Iceland. Something about her being on a boat with a bunch of other people just felt safer than sending her to some hotel all by herself.
True to her nature though, she had to throw me a curve ball. She found a gorgeous cottage in Scotland on AirBnB that she fell in love with. Next thing I know, she’s already reserved it and sent off for her passport.
I never want to be the reason hold her back from achieving anything. At the same time I was feeling so much apprehension, I also felt like this trip was going to be a life changer for her. I pictured her coming back with a ton of confidence having proved to herself that she really could accomplish anything she set her mind on. (Okay, Mom, time to back off and be supportive. You just won’t sleep the entire time she’s gone.)
Over the next months, I quizzed her on every little detail about her trip. I bought her a personal alarm that she could wear on her coat. I bought her warm clothes, an adapter for her phone so she could always stay in touch, and whatever else I could think of try to ease MY fears.
As I write this post she is currently in Scotland. She hasn’t encountered any problem that she wasn’t able to handle. She’s fallen madly in love with the country, even wants to go to college over there. (OMG!) I’m so proud of her. She not only proved something to herself, she made me aware that she’s more grown than I’m honestly ready for her to be.
So, if you find yourself with a child that is in that awkward stage of later teenage years and early twenties, where they are trying to establish their independence, but kinda still need you, and they present you with something ambitious that you think might be too much for them. Take a breath and don’t automatically say no. Does your opposition honestly come from a place of needed protection and guidance, or is it more about you and fears of being out of control? Take as many precautions as are available, trust that you have raised them well, and let them go. It could lead to a lot of growth, for them and for you.
Seriously suffering from lack of sleep,
To hear how my daughter’s trip went check out her post:
I found the following articles about “letting go” enlightening if you are interested in more information.