Still learning to let go

I just read an article on the Washington Post -“Trying to raise a teen in a terrorized world.

Heartfelt words from a mum about  saying goodbye to her 18 year old as he goes off on a three week trip to Europe. In other generations mothers have had to say goodbye to their 18 year old for more traumatic reasons, but that doesn’t make her concerns less real. She says “I have spent these past few weeks wrestling with the question of how I am supposed to parent him toward independence at a time fraught with so much violence and fear.”

Having Christian spending three months by himself in San Francisco as a 19 year old I completely emphathise with her. I waste a lot of time worrying about things that might happen to him – and this week something did. Mind you it was something that could have happened to him anywhere.

He came off his bike cycling to his internship and banged his head and broke his finger (I did say to him a while back that maybe learning to ride on the 13898171_1389214644429271_1206160372_o.jpgother side  of the road might not be a good idea…)  Fortunately it was early in the morning so no cars were involved. Might not sound like much but when your youngest is overseas by himself and having to negotiate hospitals and health insurance (and now specialists as it is needs to be looked at further), it’s very hard to sit tight. And it’s not even as if he will come back home to get things sorted out – he will have to then negotiate the NHS once he is back in the UK.

My husband reminds me that our boy turns 20 later this month, and that in the scheme of things it’s not so bad. But this is the first time he has hurt himself without me there to help him. And he is without his girlfriend, who stayed on the phone to him from the UK the whole time he limped to the hospital (too scared to call an ambulance as he wasn’t sure of the cost).

I can’t do my normal mother hen routine. I can’t offer anything more practical than FB Messenger phone calls (thank-you Facebook for making that so easy.)  And I can pray – which I am. Fortunately we will be with him in 8 days – bringing NZ chocolate and TLC and probably some mother hen behaviour. And I finally get to see that famous bridge!

I guess now is one of those times where our attempts to parent him towards independence are put to the test. As he moves from teenager to young adult I am so proud of him and his resourcefulness.

Yet I still worry and wish he was here, not there. I need to remind myself that God is there with him and looking after him. I have to keep learning to let go. There are well-quoted words from Elizabeth Stone that I also came across today, that to parent is “to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

So true.

How do we do it?

So yesterday we said goodbye to our teenage son and his gorgeous girlfriend as they  headed back to the UK  after spending Easter with us. Way harder than leaving him at Cambridge University in October last year.

They arrived earlier this month on the morning his sister had her baby boy  in the evening. And  we have had just over a month of our family basically spending  every possible moment together. So much eating and laughing and connecting! We are a close unit so to be together has been amazing but to say goodbye yesterday has was very very hard.

I have spent the last 24 hours tracking their plane back to the UK all the way from NZ and have just had the FB messenger post that they are safely ‘wheels down’. I know for them that they are back in their other home and that the rest of the year holds excitement, challenge and adventure.

We have our house back to ourselves – and it is already quieter (and tidier!). And I  miss them so much already. A lot of tears last night after we farewelled them. I realised  this is different to sending him off on a holiday or an OE. He is studying and making a life on the other side of the world. He isn’t going on a holiday – he’s going back to his other home. As is his girlfriend (not the right  word for such an important person in his life). They are carving a significant path together at a very young age – watch this space for these two!!

And so to the title – how do we do this as parents? Letting our baby adults leave the nest, fly away – to other cities and countries. Wondering if they will be OK, remember all the things we told them and taught them. Airport hugs and goodbyes. Spoiling them while they are home. Grabbing any moment to chat with them about important things. Still being a slightly nagging parent…

I know that our experience is probably a minor one on the scale of letting them go. We have already  been inundated with messenger alerts and they only landed 30 minutes ago. (Let’s hear it for flight tracking apps). And we will see our boy in San Francisco when we visit him on his internship in August and he will be home for Christmas.

And how do they do it? They will miss out on what is going on here, just as much as we will miss out on what is going on there.They  leave behind three nieces and nephews who won’t remember this visit. Well one of them might 🙂

As we left the airport yesterday we realised this is our new normal – saying goodbye to our youngest as he heads back overseas, but we know that he will always come back at least for a while and for now that’s something to hold onto.

Chistian and babies

Sophie and babies

Buying a mountain buggy

On the countdown now for the arrival of our third grandchild, and our daughter’s first baby. As a girl with  four brothers this makes her journey a bit special (but don’t tell the boys that). Just a few weeks to go so lots of final planning and organising underway. She and her husband have continued what is looking like becoming a family tradition of not finding out the gender of the baby, so there is lots of anticipation and theorising about what the outcome will be.

With all this in mind, this weekend I finally got round to putting a  carseat in my car that will work for our two current grandchildren (who are getting to the stage where nanna can take them out for a hour or two),and the nearly here one.

Well, spending an hour in our sweltering garage trying to decipher instructions worthy of installing a NASA escape pod was interesting. And who would have thought a car seat needed a cup holder?  Or that they now come with expiry dates? However it’s now securely ISOFIXed (thanks Volvo for burying those vital bars so deep in the  bowels of the seat). Driving to worship practice on Sunday morning it felt very strange glimpsing a carseat in the rear vision mirror again after so many years without one.

Carseat checked off, later on Sunday Nicole and I  had fun choosing the all important mountain buggy. As a super fit person she wanted one that was suitable for serious running miles ( she has only just stopped running at 35 weeks pregnant so I suspect she will be back into it pretty quickly).

Have to say I’m a bit envious of all the improvements in  baby transportation from the last time we bought one 19 years ago, and they look like veritable contraptions from another planet compared with the one we bought over thirty years ago (could be 200 years ago they are so different).

Not so envious of the prices. This is a big business once you add on all the ‘essential’ accessories – somewhat of an oxymoron. We had the choice of different types of wheels for different terrains, carrycots, attachable carseats, water bottle holders, food trays, travel bags – these are seriously cool  and very pricey ways to wheel a baby around!  We ended up deciding to buy the mountain buggy second hand and purchased the rather useful carseat capsule that attached to it new.

As we browsed TradeMe at lunch, and then stood in the shop comparing reviews of the buggy cornucopia, Nicole filled me in on all the things she had researched. I realised how wide the gulf between then and now, and yet again marvelled at the wonder and power of the internet. Every model can be compared, both price and specifications, hundreds of reviews to choose from. Even buying second hand is easy through on-line auction sites as opposed to the now forgotten and thankfully defunct classified ad pages. When we had our first baby, we only had the knowledge we could glean from our parents and friends’ recommendations. My mum was great, both in helping choose the right one and financially. There was an awful lot of walking round shops to see  different models, a distinct dearth of choice, and some seriously ugly options in the 80s and 90s!

And  despite all the changes and innovations, on Sunday it still eventually came down to a question from a daughter to her mum – “what do you think?” and we chose together; just like her grandmother and I did all those years ago. The technology may change, baby transport options have definitely changed, but the rituals surrounding your daughter having her first baby thankfully have not.