Wednesday, June 13, 2007

on telling your baby goodby

A couple of days ago a friend of Lili's was visiting. This girl will graduate from highschool next spring with an associates degree from Utah State University...a degree that she has earned through online schooling. She's a hard worker and an excellent student.

While she was here, we were talking about her going to the University after she graduates and she casually mentioned her mother is going with her, rooming with her, the first six months. Excuse me???!!! I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I asked if her mother was leaving her little sister home, alone, with her brother and step-father and she said, "Oh, yes. Besides, my sister will be sixteen by then and my mom wants to finish her degree."

You know, I have a problem with that. We have one full fledged university right here in town, as well as numerous colleges and university extensions. If mom is so anxious to finish her degree, she can do it right here. And there is no way under the face of the sun I'd go room with my 18-year-old daughter when she goes off to college. Mothers and fathers need to let go and let grow.

Which leads me to telling my own baby goodby. I just walked away from her at the airport. I came home: she's flying to Australia for the rest of the month. Rick made the comment while we were waiting for her security check that there was one thing she'd forgotten to pack in her luggage - him. She said she'd love to take him. He said he'd love to go. I said, "Not me."

Lili looked a little surprised until I commented that I wasn't planning to move to college with her. Then she understood.

Being an occasionally-emotional mother I was all teary eyed as she checked her luggage and stood in line for security check but this is Lili's day. It's time for me, Mom, to step back and let her walk forward on her own. She can't become a mature, capable adult when there's still an umbilical cord attaching her to me.

Did I help her make sure she had everything packed? Of course. I held the list of required items and checked each one off as she put it in her suitcase. I looked over every shirt she packed and made sure there was no mending that needed done (I find even brand new shirts aren't always altogether). I ran her to WalMart a couple of times to pick up items she needed but didn't have. I took her to the dentist, the orthodontist and the doctor. I made suggestions concerning the gifts she took for the host family she'll be staying with - then let her choose and assemble what she wanted to give. I printed out several pages of family photos for her to take. I typed up and printed off copies of the lists we made of the individual items she packed in her suitcase and backpack. (One copy for me, one for her suitcase and one for her backpack.)

And then, when the time came, I walked away.

I was thinking, this morning before I woke her up, of all the things I could have and should have taught her before sending her out on her own. I took her shoe shopping a couple of days ago and after she'd tried on and decided upon the best walking shoes for the trip, she started towards the front of the store, leaving her purse behind. As she puts it, "Blond moment."

How could I have trained her so that she would pay more attention, be more careful? I guess I could have yelled at her a lot. But I don't like doing that. Will she leave things behind in Australia? Very possibly. But if it's something she values, she'll learn far more in losing it than she would have ever learned if I'd spent her life yelling at her whenever she didn't pay attention.

I tried to think of what I needed to tell her before she left. We had to make a flying trip to the orthodontist this morning because her permanent retainer had broken loose and needed to be re-cemented in place. It was a good opportunity to give her some last minute advice but, as I drove along, I couldn't think of anything to say.

Finally I asked her the questions one asks a kindergartener - who are you? what's your address? where do you live? phone number? and I added SS# as well because it's taken me several years to convince her that was a number she really needed to memorize. Then, about time she was becoming quite exasperated with me, I asked her who she was representing. She knows the drill - her family, her country, her God.

Then I talked to her about the family she represents. While I want her to represent my family well, she doesn't bear my maiden name so when people look at her they think of her father's family. They were fine people. She has a proud heritage from them and I want her to always think of how she represents their name.

I told her about her grandfather, a wonderful man whom I cherished. She has, of course, heard about him before but this time I think she really paid attention. This time I think it began to sink in. This time I hope I left her with a feeling of her place in the family and how her choices of actions reflect on the heritage that has been passed down to her.

Hopefully she will also begin to think of how her choices will reflect on the posterity she will one day have. I have never had much in the way of material possessions to pass down to her but I have been able to give her a good name...a heritage of people who were honest, hardworking citizens - people who tried to contribute in a positive manner to their communities. My hope for my youngest daughter is that as she leaves me behind she, too, will walk through life leaving a trail of positive memories in the hearts of those whose paths she crosses.

God bless you, my daughter...till we meet again. I love you.

Lili’s itinerary for her Australia trip

Leave Wed. June 13, 2007
Thurs. June 14 - lose a day crossing the International Date Line
Arrive Sydney, Australia
Swim at the Aquatic Centre - home of the 2000 Olympics’ swimming events
Fri. June 15 - Sydney, the largest city in Australia and the capital of New South Wales, is set on
the natural harbor of Port Jackson. A.M Go for the gold at the Aquatic Centre.
P.M. tour the ‘majestic Sydney Opera House complex. Dinner will be
overlooking the entertainment precinct of Darling Harbour.
Sat. June 16 - Learn surf life saving on the famous Manly Beach. (Surf life saving began in the
early 1900s and formally became an organization in 1907. It integrates sport and life
saving skills and is an integral part of the Australian seaside culture. Later explore
Sydney’s Chinatown.
Sunday, June 17 - Learn to sail in Sydney Harbour. Lunch at the Hard Rock Café amidst its
fascinating collection of music memorabilia. Group photo at Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair - a
stone bench Lady Elizabeth Macquarie, wife of a famous governor, used to sit on to rest
and admire the view while awaiting news from home via the tall ships entering the
harbor. This promontory boasts fabulous views of the Sydney Opera House and the
Harbour bridge. Later explore either Darling Harbour, the Pitt Street Mall or both.
Darling Harbour waterfront includes Sydney’s Chinese Gardens, complete with a
traditional Chinese teahouse. Close to the mall are Hyde Park, Macquarie Street and the
Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Monday, June 18 -Journey to rural Arcadia and Vision Valley. Participate in interactive and
challenging workshops that teach leadership skills, setting personal goals and stepping
outside your comfort zone. Either fly across a valley via a zip line or complete an
outdoor adventure course.
Tuesday, June 19 - Head to Canberra. Explore the Australian Institute of Sport - Australia’s
breeding ground of elite athletes. Next, explore the Australian War Memorial in
Canberra (it ranks among the world’s great national monuments).
Wed., June 20 - Visit the Australian Parliament House. Spend afternoon and evening with home
stay family and experience life as an Aussie.
Thurs. June 21 - spend day with home stay family - perhaps with the opportunity to attend an
Aussie school.
Fri. June 22 - travel to Victoria, Australia. Spend night at Sovereign Hill - Australia’s very own
recreated 1850s gold rush town.
Sat. June 23 - Can pan for gold if she choses. Travel on to Melbourne.
Sun. June 24 - Visit the Yarra River, Southbank and the Arts Centre. Explore the Old Melbourne
Gaol. (Is it truly haunted by previous inmates?) Continue on to the Moonlit Sanctuary for
an introduction to Australia’s nocturnal fauna. Finally, travel to Phillip Island to see the
mystical Penguin Parade at sunset. (The little animals are the smallest of the 17 species of
penguins in the world - only 13" tall - and can sleep at sea, dozing as they float on the
surface. Every night the penguins waddle from the sea to their burrows in the spinifex
Mon. June 25 - Explore a rain forest, see Phar Lap (Australia’s most famous horse), touch a
dinosaur bone or live a lifetime in no time at all at Melbourne’s award-winning museum.
Learn about Australia’s national gemstone, the opal, during a cutting and polishing
demonstration at an opal establishment. Discover why sports mad Melbourne people
love “Aussie Rules” football and cricket so much at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
(Then maybe she can come home and explain the game because it’s played in the park
next to our home every Saturday and we haven’t a clue!)
Tues. June 26 - Fly to Cairns. Enjoy music and dance productions at the Australian Museum.
Learn about Aboriginal culture. Experience boomerang and spear throwing
demonstrations. Explore the Wet Tropics Rainforest by land and water in a WWII
amphibious vehicle called an Army Duck. Close encounter with Australia’s unique fauna,
such as koalas, kangaroos, crocodiles and wombats in a wildlife sanctuary. Learn
Australian folk songs and learn how to bush dance.
Wed. June 27 -Snorkel in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef
Thurs. June 28 - Take a scenic gondola ride to Kuranda, a mountainous Australian village
surrounded by spectacular rainforest and tropical vegetation. Visit Mungalli Falls - the
only freehold World Heritage listed waterfall in Australia.
Fri. June 29 - Enjoy a variety of outdoor activities including “land sliding”, the adventure of
sliding down a hill on a toboggan. Dinner will be a BBQ followed by a bush dance.
Sat. June 30 - Journey back to Cairns via the scenic Atherton tablelands.
Sun. July 1 - Return to the United States

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