Last Thursday our second oldest child, Jordan, who is 16, flew to Brazil to visit family all by himself. It was the first time he had ever been on a plane, traveled outside the southeastern US, or been away from us for more than a few nights. He will be staying for almost a month. Originally, he was going to go with his grandparents as our oldest son had done a few years ago, but circumstances with his great-grandmother prevented them from going. So, he said he wanted to go alone. I was very against that but I realized that he really wanted to do it and there was no logical reason he shouldn’t. I was just going to have to deal with my anxiety. It was hard when his older brother went back in early 2020 but that was before a pandemic shut down the world, and before we lost our daughter and he was with his grandparents. I really had to deal with the feelings of not being in control of his travel and the fear of something happening. That is a real thing for any parent, but particularly when you’ve lost a child, and when it happened in such a tragic and preventable way as it did with Kaki, my anxiety can definitely be hard to fend off sometimes about something happening to my other kids. My biggest worry was him getting off the plane in Sao Paulo and hiring someone to help him with the bags and boxes he was traveling with and then making his way outside to find my brother-in-law. I won’t lie, I had visions of him getting lost or kidnapped or something. He landed in Brazil at 3:30am our time and you can believe I was up at 3am watching for his status on the airline website and texting with him. At one point, when he was trying to find someone to help him and couldn’t he didn’t text me for about 15 minutes, I was really having to talk myself down about it. But ultimately, I was so proud of him because while he couldn’t find anyone to help, I’m guessing he didn’t look like he needed help, he just found a cart and worked it out himself. He handled a tough situation calmly and I was so impressed. We knew he could do it, but to see your child faced with a very tough situation and you cannot do anything to help, but they rise to the occasion and do what is needed is such a rewarding thing. I know he is learning skills that he will carry for the rest of his life, most of all to believe in himself.
As I said before I was not on board with him going alone on this trip. I was trying to convince him to do something much more structured and, in my opinion, safer. But I realized I was standing in his way. He wanted to stretch himself and I was preventing that. I don’t want to be that parent, that limits my kids because of my own scars and fear. The teenage years are all about slowly letting go of your kids and letting them be their own people. It starts in middle school and gets more pronounced in high school with driving but then as they go to college, as our oldest son has this year, it becomes even greater. He still sleeps at home but other than that we rarely see him. We’ve been gradually letting go of control of any part of his life this year and now he’s pretty much self-sufficient. That is rewarding as a parent and also scary sometimes. Like in August when he got into a car accident. That was easily one of the scariest moments I’ve ever had as a parent. Thankfully he was okay, but his car was not. We had told him we would help him buy half of his first car, but after that, he should save an emergency fund and the next car would be on him. When he wrecked his car I wanted to bail him out, but I knew that wasn’t what he needed long-term. He needed us to help him emotionally and to help him as he went to buy another car, but he needed to pay for it. That was also a hard parenting moment. You never want to see your kid in a tough situation that life has dealt them. We could have helped but then he wouldn’t have had the satisfaction of knowing he could take care of things himself and how valuable that emergency fund he had saved was. It was a very important life lesson.
Parenting is the worst sometimes. You think when they are young that those are the hardest days, having spit up all over you and no sleep. Cranky two-year-olds and snotty noses. Those are hard physically, but the teen and young adult years are harder emotionally. It’s much bigger stakes. I definitely can look back and see all the things I wish I could do differently with my kids, so many lost moments and things I wish I could undo. I think you need those moments so you can do better in the future as a parent. It also makes me think of some tough situations in my life that I would want God to just fix for me, but He has chosen not to. I need to struggle through them to grow and learn some things. I don’t think He enjoys seeing me struggle any more than I enjoy seeing my kids struggle. Some of the situations are of my own making and others are just life dealing you some terrible hands. Either way, I need to struggle to grow sometimes. I need to pay the price of my own bad choices to learn from that and also to sometimes experience the hurt of someone else or a difficult situation to understand my own strength and to lean on God. Sometimes I need to go through something difficult so I can avoid future difficulties. I need to realize I need an emergency fund for when the storm comes, both financially and in the form of a support system. Those are things that I can’t learn unless I go through some difficult times without them first. It’s been a very tough few years for us and we’ve learned that we need to have a better support system in place for when the next storm might come. We have to invest in that in the times of calm though, you cannot build that support in the middle of a storm, then it’s too late. I’m working this year to make my supports stronger so that I’ll be ready, just as we save and prepare for financially hard times, we are working to prepare for emotional hard times as well. We know for sure they will come, as they have in the past. That is life.