Every time children leave the nest for a new experience, as parents, we are launching them into the universe hoping they have everything they need in their backpacks to survive.
My first real experience with this was when my older daughter went on a study abroad trip to Argentina last year. It was a school trip, and I connected with her host families online and received photos and notes about her journey. Being that she is a very independent child, this separation didn’t seem unbearable to either of us.
This week, she heads out again. This time for a service trip in Puerto Rico where she will be assisting with homebuilding and restoration projects in several communities.
While she is going with two friends and meeting youth leaders and a group of other volunteers when she arrives, there are more unknowns about this adventure. For starters, the program does not allow participants to have their phones, so my contact with her will be limited to blog posts made by the group leaders.
I believe these mini-launches prepare us all, parents and children, for the ultimate launch — from home into college. In these test runs, these mini-launches, we send them into space with a bungee cord attached, knowing, like boomerangs, they will come back to us.
The other day, my daughter said to me: “With the exception of doing laundry, I could totally live on my own right now.”
I would add, in addition, with the exception of our money that supports you …
She reminds me constantly that she is getting ready to launch for good. She says: “Next year, I will be 18, an adult. And I will be going to college. You won’t be there to make decisions for me.” True, I won’t be there physically, but I will still be there for support, both financial and emotional, when needed.
Like a rocket that blasts into space, once children launch for good, there is no bungee cord to bring them back. As parents, we hope that eventually they will come back on their own, not because of the boomerang effect, but because they will finally realize that even astronauts need their parents.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.