From the moment my kids were born they started to leave. Think about it, parenting is really one long goodbye. They move out of your bed to the crib, they let go of your hand and walk away, they board a yellow bus, they go away to camp, they drive away, they travel abroad, they go to college and they spend their vacations away with friends. That’s as far as I’ve gotten, but I’ve been told that the odds they’ll eventually get married and move out are high. This “letting go” is a subtle and scary process, but it’s as inevitable as gravity.
We recently took Lior — our 17 year old daughter– to a presentation about a gap year program in Israel. The program’s director explained that the kids will form small groups and live in apartments in a working class suburb of Tel-Aviv; they would shop, cook, budget, study, travel and volunteer together. There is structure, but no hovering adults or parents. They would essentially make all daily living decisions on their own. Parent-speak: sex, drugs, rock & roll in the toughest region on the planet. Far, far from home.
Is my daughter ready for this? What if the rockets from Gaza fly again, or if she starts liking the discos in Tel Aviv? A sweet blue-eyed-blond American would be easy prey. The mind games are endless. A simple no-go decision would keep things safe and affordable, but in reality we’ve been practicing her entire life for this trip. We just need to stick with the program:
- Trust and believe in her power to navigate life. And get on with ours.
- She knows what’s best for her. We just think we do.
- If in doubt, let her do it and wait for the TEXT.
The gap year decision is a big one, but there have been countless other ones that make the pursuit of independence a lifelong practice. Like yesterday…
- “Dad, can I take the car tonight?”
- “Lior, it’s supposed to snow – please stay at home.”
- “Dad, it’s just two miles away…”
Well…above is what the umbilical texting cord read like after a frantic call form the car at midnight. I was dying to leap into the other car and drive up the road for the rescue, but this was turning into a mega driving lesson that she’ll have to face sooner or later on her own and far from home. I decide to remain in my underwear and continue pacing back and forth trusting that her headlights will eventually shine up the driveway.
I always trusted my daughter. And I made sure she knew I trusted her. She’s a practical, experienced traveler, who knows how to take care of herself and others. We’ve raised her for this. Like it or not, we are ready for Tel-Aviv. There is no fighting gravity.
This is just my story of how I try to live my life and let my kids live theirs. I’ve asked a couple of other parents to share their experience in the thread below and would love to hear yours.