Bridget is on a school trip this week. I dropped her off on Sunday morning, waited around with all the other parents, and then watched her and 60 other kids board a double-decker bus and drive away for six days to a different country.
We travel a lot, our family, and I never really get nervous. But dropping my kids off to travel without me is a whole different thing.
Every time – and this is B’s third international school trip – I am completely engulfed in fear as soon as she is out of reach. I’m fine leading up to the trip, albeit slightly obsessive about making sure she’s packed correctly. But when the bus pulls away I feel terror rise up in my throat. Horrifying scenario after more horrifying scenario plays in my mind and I actively have to push them down, force myself to breathe, pretend I’m calm even though I am in full panic mode.
The forced calm eventually gives way to actual calm. It only takes me about a half hour to compartmentalize that anxiety, reason with myself, accept that everything will be okay and that I have to be able to let her go. But for the entire time B is gone I will feel her missing presence like a phantom limb. It won’t be until she’s home safe that I truly relax.
It does get somewhat easier each time. I know these trips will become more frequent the older she gets and I’ll get more and more used to it. I’ll panic less each time until finally someday I’ll be able to hug her goodbye and wish her bon voyage without simultaneously covering up my surging terror.
And eventually I know that all my kids are going to leave. One day, each of them will leave my home for good to go off on their own and live their lives. It’s the exact thing I’ve been working toward since the days each of them were born: it’s all been prep-work to get them ready to go. I know this. I accept this. I look forward to the day when I can look around, hopefully, and say, “That’s it. I did it. I brought up these four great humans and they are happy and good people and I have successfully done the only thing that really mattered I do well.”
It will come with a piece of heartbreak, I know. But I have to hope it also will come with an enduring sense of satisfaction.
I’m not there yet though. I’m still smack dab in the newness of letting her go, years away from the day it will be anything like easy. So until then, I’ll be sitting here counting the hours until tomorrow when my girl is home with me.