I’ve run the gamut of emotions this week. From, “how could she be 12?!” to, “where did the time go?!” and all of those typical things that happen at birthdays. I think my emotional state has been complicated, too, by your friends leaving for France today. I know you’ve been emotional about that, too. Just last night you said, in the same breath, “I’m so glad I’m not going to France, but all my friends are leaving me!” It’s tricky, really, and I want you to know that it’s weighing on me as well. We knew fairly early on that an overseas trip for you in 6th grade probably wouldn’t happen. Your struggles with worries and anxiety started early, and over the years your dad and I talked about whether or not you’d be able to make a trip like this. Recently, I heard you telling your cousins that your friends were leaving on this trip, and you said, “Oh, I have anxiety. There’s NO WAY I could take a trip to France.”
I want to acknowledge how cool it is that you know yourself enough to say something like that. You know your limits, and you’re not afraid to tell people about that stuff. That makes you pretty amazing, I think. I also think that you need to give yourself credit for something else you said last night to me. You told me that if you were the same person at the beginning of 6th grade as you are now, you’d have fought harder to go on this trip. I agree. You have grown in so many ways this year, and I’m glad you can see that, too. No longer do you have bouts of panic attacks. No longer do big changes affect you in the same ways. You’ve learned over the years to name the stuff that makes you worried, or nervous, and that is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. That’s not to say you’re done with anxiety or worrying about stuff. Hardly. Hello, you have my DNA running through your body. It’s just to say that this is the year you figured out how to use those tools you’ve worked so hard on to learn. I’m proud of you for that.
For me, today has been bittersweet. Looking at photos of the kids you’ve been in school with for the last seven years carrying luggage, and boarding airplanes has been hard for me. One of the things we knew when we were lucky enough to get a spot in your school was that this day would eventually be here. We knew early on, a 2 week trip to France might be the right choice for you, but I never thought it would be so hard for me. I think the hardest part is this: I have one chance to make certain choices for you in your life. I have one chance to do this mothering thing the “right” way. No one tells you how hard it will be to make these kinds of huge decisions, and there will be plenty of them. No one tells you that you need to be willing to sit with your crying child at 10pm the night before this big trip, and rock her while she says how sad it makes her that she’s not going. No one tells you how hard it will be to hear other parent’s opinions of the choices you’ve puzzled over for years, and to not second guess all of those hard decisions you’ve weighed so heavily.
“You’re NOT sending her?”
“She’s going to have to grow up someday!”
“She’ll be FINE.”
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m not ready to put you on a plane by yourself on a flight to Paris. I’m not ready to have you spend two weeks with a family I’ll likely never meet. Maybe I don’t think you’re quite ready to handle money, and schedules, and being away for that long. Maybe that makes me a shitty mom. Maybe that makes me overprotective and weird. But also? Maybe it means that your dad and I know who you were, and now you know who you ARE. Maybe it means that someday soon you’ll be ready for something like this. I don’t know. But, I do know this. At 12 you know yourself better than some people will know themselves in a lifetime. I am so proud to be your mama.