Spread Your Wings, Baby Girl

For the last three days, we had temperatures in the 60’s. Not that big a deal except it’s February and I’m close to the mountains and…it’s February. We should be wrapped up in sweaters and sweatshirts and fuzzy pajamas. Not taking four-mile walks in sandals because the sunlight feels amazing on my winter-dried skin.

Today, though, the temperature dropped by 30 plus degrees. The blue skies clouded up and snow has been falling for hours. Fortunately, we’ve had three days of 60 degree days which means that the snow isn’t quite sticking on the roads. Yes. I’m still a teacher. And, yes, I’d love to have a snow day tomorrow. I have got some pages to write/edit and some Lego Harry Potter butt to kick. But my daughter is working tonight. The restaurant where she works is 15 miles away. And her shift starts at 4 in the afternoon, only two hours before the sun sets. And it’s Superbowl Sunday, so she’ll be driving home. Alone. In the dark. On cold roads.

I begged my husband to drive her to work. To bring her home. Because I am scared of our daughter driving home. Alone. In the dark. On cold roads that will likely be forming icy patches. I want her safe. Secure. Tucked under a seat belt in a car that is a lot more modern then the crappy 1990’s Jeep Cherokee that she drives. Note, the driver’s side door doesn’t even fully close. She’ll be cold.

My husband said one simple word. “No.”

What the hell?

No? But…this is our daughter. She’s only 17. She’s never really driven on a potentially icy road. At night. Alone. Her last job was less than a quarter mile from our house. So any icy road driving that she did was on a quarter mile. She couldn’t get the speed up enough to even really slide. Much less crash. Much less get hurt.

I fought him. Oh, I took all of his arguments and turned them around on her being safe. On her being inexperienced. On her not knowing what to do.

And he reminded me that at some point our daughter has to learn how to manage. I still disagree with him. Dammit. She doesn’t know how to drive on ice. Hell, I don’t know how to drive on ice. Other than parking my car and watching traffic because I don’t want to get into an accident.

But our daughter, this week, was accepted into college. She’ll be about two hours from us. Sure, she won’t have a car. But she’ll be well beyond the reach of any immediate safety net that I can throw under her.

I hate being a mother. I hate the perilous, vulnerable journey my heart takes every time I feel like something could be wrong with one of my children. I hate the soft pink tissue that surrounds my soul that smarts with the lightest of pinpricks because my children might get hurt.

And yet, I love my motherhood. I still remember the time-stopping joy when I learned I was pregnant. I loved laying on my back in bed when I was pregnant and watching the undulation of my belly as my babies moved beneath my skin. I loved holding them after they were born, the softness of their long, lean frames, the slenderness of their fingers. The tiny perfections of their fingernails.

I loved how my children came to me with their joys and their pains. How I could be both their greatest celebrator and their personal healer. That a single kiss could validate their triumphs or remove their anguish.

I’ve lost so much of that magical ability. My kisses don’t wash away the oil-stain bruises that my children experience. I can’t magically fix small wounds with Band-Aids and hugs. I can only stand on the sidelines and watch. And pray. And cross my fingers and just hope. Hope. Hope that as they climb on top of their own pedestals and spread their arms to leap that the wind will catch them just right.

I haven’t flown a kite in years. Maybe a decade or more. The last time I tried to was nothing more than an epic fail. My neighbors were likely amused by the short, stocky, chubby woman galumphing around the cul-de-sac with a flat kite smacking on the asphalt behind her. My kids stood on the porch and certainly watched. Possibly bored. Because I was trying to fly a kite. For them.

They weren’t the ones holding the string. Running around, trying to catch the wind to inflate the kite’s sails and send it aloft. I wanted to be the fool. I wanted to make the mistakes and let them take the triumph.

But life isn’t like that. Life is that risk of galumphing around the neighborhood with a kite flopping behind.

Life is also about that one moment when the wind gusts down and takes the kite from the end of a dead string. The body fills with air and lifts. This is when I want to pull on the string. Keep everything tight. I have the kite in the air. I’ve done my job.

But I need to let out the string. More. Just let it leap from the spool and siss through my fingers. Let the kite ride up higher. Above the pine trees with their umbrella branches that want to clutch the kite from my hands. Snag it into their needled limbs.

I have to trust my daughter. Trust her judgement. I know that she will make mistakes. And I will be ready to help her if and when those mistakes occur. I’ll do my best to offer a helping hand but not one that will completely take over the controls. Her world is starting. The wind is picking up.

Jump, sweetheart. You’ll be fine.

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