As I write this post, Petunia is on an exchange program to a faraway foreign land. Okay, not exactly ... she is in Canada, but she is clear on the other side of Canada, though not so clear on the other side as to be in French Canada. Okay, she is somewhere outside Toronto. So, there.
What a preview this is giving me of my near-future, and wow, am I ever so glad to have this preview -- because, wow, this is really a moment. (There are a lot of "wows" here, which is telling, because I never "wow." I prefer big words, but I have few big words that can express my amazement quite as well.)
For years, I defined myself as a wife and as a more or less at-home mom -- and as many other things, too, like as a writer, as a gluten-free baking master, as a wanna-be snowboarder -- but primarily, my role has been here, in a house, in some comfy clothes, doing my child-rearing, getting-dinner-ready, keep-the-trains-running-on-time thing. First the wife role lopped off last year, and now, I am down by half in kids for the next week. It is so very different on so many levels, leaving me to daydream about my own transitions and possibilities -- and that is a whole other "wow" for a whole other post.
Yet one thought, more than any other, keeps running through my head: this is it. This is the point. We raise our kids so that they can leave us and brave the world on their own, hopefully in a sensible and productive way -- and that is exactly what Petunia is doing right now. She is test-driving an experience that she will replicate in just over a year when, if things go as intended, she will leave our nest for boarding school, which is kind of like leaving home for good. She will return on vacations and for summers and such, but the stuff of living regularly with a child -- the wake-up, eat breakfast, do-you-have-your-backpack, school drop-off, sports pick-up, here's dinner, do-your-homework, tuck-in, repeat -- will be half-gone by the autumn of next year. Wow. Just ... wow.
There is no downside here -- don't get me wrong. This is like following a treasure map with all of its twists and turns and finally arriving at the X that marks The Spot. The treasure is the young person whom you have reared confidently embarking on a road that a parent can no longer determine for her, carrying a toolkit that you have helped to provide in order to bolster her successful transition to an independent life.
The treasure is the picture texted to you of your near-teen in a place you have never been, with people you do not know, doing something you have never done, with a big and confident smile on her face that needs no words, because you know that it means "I'm thriving just as I'm supposed to do."
The treasure is the call you receive saying, "I'm checking in," which translates to "I know you'll worry if I don't call," which really means "I know I matter to you, and you matter to me, so here I am."
I am sure that there are hosts of things that I have not done "by the book," parenting-wise; after all, I am flawed, just as we all are. But I am taking this moment to appreciate something I have done quite right in raising a child who can leave home without hesitation while appreciating that we still have each other on the other end of the line. It can be a long line, but it is a line that will never break.
We may be nearing the end of the treasure hunt, standing on the X that marks the spot -- but that spot, that launching point, is home, and it will always remain just a phone call or a text away. And wow, am I ever glad of those calls. And wow, my kid is in Canada, on her own, wearing snowshoes and an ear-to-ear smile in below-freezing weather. She is not me; she is forging her own road. And wow, it is so very fun to watch -- a treasure, indeed.