When I got the letter in May, my heart sank. I didn’t get a spot. I had wanted to chaperone the two-night field trip that my son would be taking this week. He admitted he couldn’t wait to go without me. My heart sank a little more. My baby, OK my oldest, was growing up. As much as I needed him to need me, he just didn’t.
I think mothers and fathers differ greatly in how much they worry about their kids. In some families maybe the dad does all the worrying. But I think there must be some balance. One parent has to worry so the other can have some sense of reason. The other can say, “It doesn’t matter how many hours you obsess over pajamas. He isn’t going to wear them.”
In our family, I am that worrier. For the past five months, I have worried about everything from my child falling off the mountain his class will be hiking on to not drinking enough water. In some sort of cruel, maternal way, I worry that my son will miss me.
I have lost sleep over things that could go wrong, causing migraines and stomach issues. The chaperones will keep an eye on my son. I know them. They are great parents, but they’re not me. But I have to trust my son and let him go. Despite a few jitters, he’s ready for this even if I’m not.
My son has always been the kind of kid who jumps into things when he’s ready and not a moment sooner. I try to remind him about all the things I won’t be able to when I’m not there—use your manners, change your underwear—but I shouldn’t overwhelm him. My gut says to back off. I know if he forgets, it’s not the end of the world. This independence will be good for him, boost his confidence. On the parenting scale of free-range to helicopter, I find I’m pushing myself more to the middle these days and this trip will benefit me too.
My husband will start to think about packing the bag days before. I have been thinking about it for two months, worrying about the best way to pack three outfits, sweatshirts, gloves, extra shoes, a pillow, a sleeping bag, sheet, and just extras in a way that my son can carry them from bus to lodge in one load. I’ve always been a planner.
I won’t be able to drop my son off at school the morning of the trip. Even though I’ve been preparing him for this independence, I haven’t really prepared myself. I can only put my brave face on for a short time before I turn back into Mom at the stroke of 7 a.m., and I don’t want him to see that: a quivering lip, me lingering for too long, turning back for just one more hug.
I’m proud of him. Some kids won’t go without their parents. He’s a little nervous, mostly excited. I know he’ll have a great time.
I’m embarrassed of me. I won’t sleep. I’ll worry every second. And when he gets off the bus brimming with details of the trip, I’ll tear up in relief. I’ll shed the worry like a heavy coat.
My months of worry will have been for nothing. But for both of us, it will have been a practice run for the many more times I’ll have to let him go.