Letting Children Fly (Or Not)

Christmas Day started out real laid back … just meandering through the hours … because someone else was fixing Christmas dinner.  Time for phone calls to loved ones and visits with neighbors.  Lots of reminiscing.  Even a Facebook post or two.

Then came a long drive south.  Everyone else on the road was apparently frantic to reach their destinations, if I count the number of times I was cut off in traffic.  But then, South Florida drivers are notorious for that, no matter which day of year.

I was greeted by my hosts with the normal warm, loving hugs and a glass of fine white wine.  Dinner preparations were under control so we could relax out in the garden and just talk.  It was a “grown ups” day.

But in the background, the hosts’ daughter was madly packing up her car, plus her parents’ Hummer, with all her worldly possessions.  At dawn, they’d begin their drive across country to where she had taken a new job.

Her mother told me her daughter had broken down a couple of times, but that she had told her the story about not pursuing her own dreams when she was young and how that always left a question mark in her mind.  So, although she’d miss her daughter terribly, she knew the right thing was to encourage her to go.

That wasn’t an easy thing to do.  Their family is extremely close and their kids, while all living away from home, feel no need to move far away.  In fact, some even work in the family business.  But this was their youngest, and she was ready to go spread her wings and fly.

Or was she?

One by one we’d stroll back to her bedroom and give her little pep talks to help her overcome what we could see was her growing hesitation.  Her grateful smiles but soft “I don’t know” could be read however you wanted.

Just as dinner was about to be served, she announced she wouldn’t be eating with us, but instead wanted to go see her lifelong friends one last time.  She was reminded to get home “early” … and that meant before 5 a.m. when the little procession of cars would be pulling out.  She kissed everyone and floated off.

Christmas dinner was delicious, the result of lots of experimenting with new recipes, all of it successful.  As the evening wound down, I bundled up and left on my long drive home.

In the car I had a funny feeling that the “procession” wouldn’t be leaving the next morning.  But when I called to say that I had gotten home safely, I didn’t mention it.

I wasn’t surprised to get an email early next morning saying that their daughter canceled the trip.  She had decided she wasn’t ready to move away.

As I sat sipping my first cup of coffee, I thought about the whole scenario.  It’s so natural for us to want to assign “right” or “wrong” to events.  But this is one case where there isn’t one.

Sometimes in our lives, we just need to go with our gut.  And our heart.

There’s always another day.

  • Sometimes there are no “right” or “wrong” answers and we just have to go with our heart… and allow others to do the same. It sure is hard to release those we love, though… I can truly relate to that! I know you were a positive influence for this young woman and her family, Sharon 🙂

    • Anonymous

      Susan, it was interesting for me to experience because I’ve never had kids. And my parents died when I was young, so I’ve spent my whole life “flying” off into new situations without a safety net. But it was wonderful to see their family dynamic at work! Plus the total absence of any judging once her decision was made…

  • I can really relate to this Sharon! Thanks for sharing!

    • Anonymous

      Seems it struck a chord with lots of mothers, Annemarie.

  • Angelambrooks

    Such good advice – we walk our children to do the very best and be who they are designed to be – and as a parent it is so hard to know which is right for them. Good story

    • Anonymous

      I actually learned a lot from the experience, Angela. We all had differing opinions as the evening went on but, in the end, she’s the one who has to live with the day-to-day of the decision. Ultimately, it was hers and no one else’s.

  • Mari Ann

    Great article, Sharon. Glad to hear she didn’t feel pressured to leave. Sometimes, I think we put too much emphasis on “independence”.

  • Great article, Sharon. Glad to hear she didn’t feel pressured to leave. Sometimes, I think we put too much emphasis on “independence”.

    • Anonymous

      You know me, Mari Ann. That’s where I go first, just because of how I was raised and MY life story. But it was a great lesson watching that dynamic … actually a great GIFT to me!

  • Thanks Sharon for sharing. I am guessing that before long the young lady will “spread her wings”.

    I was always grateful to my parents who let we leave at 19 from Washington State to go live in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where my boyfriend was stationed in the Army. I roomed with a single Mom and her 3 year old son, and attended the Univ. of Puerto Rico, for a semester, then ran out of courses in English! LOL Yes, we did marry and I got a job for the rest of the year. You story “took me back there” after 55 years! Thanks for the chance to “remember”! 🙂

    • Anonymous

      Lorna, funny thing: as part of getting ready to go to that dinner, I had taken a long, luxurious tub bath. Knowing about their daughter’s plans, in my mind I ran through every move I had made, starting at 19 as you did. My first was leaving my parents in Brazil and coming to college in L.A., with no family within 3,000 miles (so I can relate to your first foray!). I changed countries (and sometimes continents) every 2-3 years for decades, always jumping out into the unknown. So watching their story unfold was a great reminder of how different we all are. “Different drummers.”

  • Great insights. This is a great lesson for me.. whose dream is it? Is it mine or my child. Thanks for this life lesson.

    • Anonymous

      Claudia, it was a great lesson for me as well! And I know how much of a mission it is to you to raise vibrant, relevant children …

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  • Wingate Wyndham Sulphur

    It is a difficult thing to do. A big step indeed. I left my parents house when I went off to college and was ready to be on my own…in a college atmosphere. Fortunately I was to live on campus and it really just put me in another neighborhood and only 2 hours away. Not everyone is ready right out of high school or has the desire to be so independent.

    • You’re right, Heather. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of traveling to “be independent.” As it turns out, you don’t have to go across country in order to be independent. You can do so right across town!