Sunday, October 10, 2010

On a Briefly Empty Nest, or Wings Spread

Back when I was a college student -- a long, long time ago in the faraway land of Southern California -- I had to drive quite a long way to the campus where I was studying. And during those long commutes in my ancient VW, I would listen to the AM radio. I heard a lot of music that I might not otherwise have chosen: Top-Ten-type-tunes by bands like Fleetwood Mac, songs like Landslide, with a chorus that goes like this:

I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I built my life around you.
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
And I'm getting older too.

And so when I heard that tune on my Pandora Internet "Roche Sisters" radio station, I was taken back in time. And then I landed back in the the present . . . or rather the very recent past.

Last week the sweet girl went on a field trip. An overnight field trip. Well, not just an overnight field trip, but a three-days and two-nights field trip. On her own. With her classmates. Without me. Without her dad. Without us.

It was something else. Something entirely new for us. Two days without the sweet girl. We were sort of sad. The apartment felt empty without her bouncing in at 3 pm from her bus and trudging off at 7:30 in the morning, or handing over the TV remote at 8:30 in the evening with her routine announcement: "You can watch your show now -- I'm going to take a shower."

Last year when she had a field trip like this, we surreptitiously shadowed her. The school knew. And she knew. But her classmates didn't know. We called it Operation Secret Parents.

But this year, with just a little trepidation, she was ready to go it alone. In fact, I think she was readier than I was. But off she went, with her suitcase, sleeping bag, and backpack.

In the middle of the trip we got just one email, from school, saying she was having a fabulous time.

When I picked her up at school on Friday, she gathered together her stuff -- suitcase, sleeping bag, backpack -- turned around to her classmates, and said, with perfect preteen inflection: "Uh, later guys."

Several called out, "Bye, M___. Have a great weekend, M____."

She hasn't said too much about the trip. They picked apples and made apple cider. They went on a long, long hike all the way to a waterfall. And among her favorite things: this bird expert, who showed the kids a falcon and an owl. She told me he even brought a dead mouse, and fed it to the owl.

"Was that gross?" I asked.

"No," she exclaimed, "It was so cool. And there was a snake man, too. He had a huge yellow snake. It was so big that two people had to carry it in. It was shedding. And we got to pet it! Its skin was so dry."

So things do change. Skins are shed, wings are spread. And she's definitely grown bolder . . . even if I've only grown older.


Niksmom said...

Ok, this is getting surreal. I just checked the HP site and saw your comment on my post. Now here I am! LOL (cue "Twilight Zone" theme.)

Your daughter is many years ahead of my son; my son may never be able to do some of the things your Sweet M has done or is doing. Then again, he may. Your daughter's story always gives me hope. Thanks. :-)

MothersVox said...

I know, I know, isn't that just amazing. When I saw your post yesterday I almost fell over. Coincidence is one of the most amazing things in life.

Your guy is much younger than our girl. It's very hard to predict what will be possible for him, and for all of our kids. Because of all the new research in neuroplasticity, it's very hard to anticipate what will be possible. Much more than what most people expect is what I'm guessing.

When our sweet girl was in 2nd grade we were told that she wasn't learning to read, and possibly would not learn to read. That's when I started this blog. Partly out of horror at the prospect of her not gaining literacy, and partly out of horror that the special education experts were so ready to give up on her. Well, to be fair, not all of them, but certainly some of them. Now she reads and writes and talks and is still very much neurologically different than her same age peers, but she continues to grow and change and develop.

You are a great mom and I think holding onto the idea of unbounded potential and focusing on the very next developmental task in front of us is the way to go.