So, I need to post a little tribute to my lovely middle girl. Being in the middle is challenging all on its own, I’ve heard from countless people. Especially after announcing that I was pregnant with Katie, people in my own family commented that I had plagued Danielle with the challenge of being a middle child. I literally remember mourning a little after celebrating my third pregnancy. Hormones, holidays, and pregnancy can be a tricky mixture.
“I've made her a middle child,” I wailed one afternoon. “What have I done?”
However, am over the moon, as they say, to have the privilege of raising three kids. My fleeting moment of insanity surrounding the realization that I had created a middle child passed quickly when my husband was activated from reserve to active duty and deployed to Kuwait. I had no time to fret! He arrived home with Katie’s imminent arrival, and we settled into being a family of five just fine, and Danielle has risen to the occasion in many, many ways. She is wise beyond her years, if nothing else, but she is also so mature and beautiful in many, many ways.
Earlier this year, Danielle announced her intentions to spend Christmas in India, bringing Christmas to people who don't have it (Christmas, that is). My husband and I totally supported her, and very honestly assured her that she would have to raise the money for the trip- that we would not be paying for said trip to India. She very calmly answered that she was aware of this: she just needed our permission to officially begin the paperwork and fundraising efforts. She had our blessing, and a little part of me thought she might have to wait a year because it was so expensive and she had less than a year to raise funds. Silly, me. Well, it was clear that she would be meeting her travel goal right on time, because, you know, God. He was making everything happen right on His schedule. Aside from the surprise expense of the visa (who knew permission to enter and exit the country could cost so much?) and some last minute plane tickets to Atlanta, she raised all the money on her own.
Fast forward to today (Although this is posting in January, I wrote it on December eighteenth), as I write this in Atlanta airport, she has just rendezvoused with her team and I won't see her until New Year’s Eve. I'm both excited and wrecked. I am so happy for her, and I feel wistful, and a little sad. Since 2003, there have been five of us on Christmas morning. The reality that this year there will only be four of us is settling in. I am so very proud of Danielle, and I know she will be successful, but it feels a little lonely already.
I think it's funny that for ten months I've been speaking of this moment with excitement and parental pride. Two days ago, I started feeling anxious about the travel aspect. I get travel anxiety really bad! I was fine last night and this morning. The moment we left the hotel for the airport, though, I felt my calm unraveling. I made eye contact with the front desk clerk who checked us in yesterday and she mouthed, “Smile, Mama, it’ll be ok.”
She had to bring me a box of tissues. The guy driving the shuttle bus between the hotel and the airport gates had to endure a blubbering mother (me, by the way). Delta has its own little airport within the Atlanta Airport, and I was flying Southwest, so he dropped the team off first, then took me to my check-in spot. He hugged me goodbye at my terminal, gave me some Kleenex, and told me to stay busy. After ensuring I wasn’t a terrorist, nor was I smuggling bombs, even the TSA agent called me sweetheart and told me to have a nice holiday. People in Atlanta are awesome.
I have maintained a confidence regarding the launching of my children into the world. The three of them are all so different with different paths ahead of them, and the only thing they have in common is that they are all mine. And, I'm pretty fierce about that. It was hard to send my special needs son to school in Staunton. On top of the plain ol’ separation aspect, I had to worry about basic things like his remembering to groom, and for him to remember to put his clothes on the right way, and to remember to wear shoes. He was only three hours away, though. Danielle is half way around the world for her first, solo travel trip ever. She is a missionary. I'm going to be a deep breathing expert by New Year’s Eve. (In hindsight, literally, as I’m editing and posting this three weeks later, she was and is fine. I’m so happy, though, to have her back home!)
My point? Hug and love your kiddos! Prepare them to work toward independence. Help them see the world in a favorable light. Tell them you love them as often as you can. Some kids will need a little more physical help, and some will require a little more of your mental energy. The three of mine require three different styles of love, encouragement, and discipline. In that precious moment, though, that you need to let them spread their proverbial wings, the best and hardest thing for you to do is to whisper your love into their ears and open your arms and bravely let them go. Let them go and change the world, and know, Mama, that you are a big part of the impact they will have on others.
Stay calm, let go, and parent on!