It has been my experience that kids hit certain milestones at different times. It’s tempting to think life is like school with its chronological march from Kindergarten to the senior year, as if time were the only determinant. The fact is that most of what happens in a child’s life is based on a whole host of unpredictable factors, and time is rarely at the top of that list. That is unless we, as parents, try to force children to adhere to a schedule of accomplishments. While there are some timelines that might, if missed, be a cause for concern, most are not. My daughter took forever to learn to crawl, for example. At first, I was concerned and, much to my embarrassment now, I could be found often demonstrating it on the floor. It didn’t work. Once she finally learned to crawl, she didn’t have much interest in it. It seemed like she went from sitting up to walking to running, overnight. She’s pretty coordinated now so I don’t think she missed anything by shortening the crawling phase.
I found I was ready for many things long before she was. Then there were other things she jumped into right away without so much as dipping one toe in the water. Riding a bike? She spent most of the time on the ground. Ice skating? She was a speed demon from the moment I first laced those blades on. I remember at the end of second grade thinking that it was time for her to go to an overnight camp. Her cousins all had by her age. I myself had many fond memories of riding horses and swimming at Camp Don Bosco. As I do, I set about researching the possibilities and came up with a list of camps in our general area with activities she might be interested in. After dinner one night, I pulled out the glossy, brightly colored camp brochures to show them to her. After extolling the virtues of each camp, I wished that I could go to camp. In my naiveté, I thought we were really just going to pick out the camp and get her signed up. I was a little worried actually that she would want to go to several camps which could get very expensive. She looked interested as she waited patiently for me to finish my sales pitch. As soon as I put the last brochure down, excited to find out which she had picked, she looked up at me with the kindest eyes. She put her tiny hand over mine, patted it gently, and said, “Oh, mama, I don’t think we are really ready for that. Do you?” Now, my first thought, which I wisely kept to myself, was “Oh. Heck yes, we are ready for you to go to camp for a week!” I was momentarily speechless. I wasn’t really sure what the appropriate response was. Of course, my mama mind was cycling with ‘is this normal?’, ‘is this a good thing or a bad thing?’, and my favorite ‘did I do something to cause her not to want to go to camp?’. So, I did what I always did when I did not understand her. I asked, “Why don’t you want to go to camp?” She did what she always does. She told me the truth. She wanted to go to camp. She just didn’t want to spend the night. And so, she did. She went to loads of summer camps. She never went to an overnight camp. Of course, I worried that it would be an issue as she got older. But soon enough and without us, she went on sleepovers, and then sports trips, and even vacations with friends. She knew when she was ready. I have learned to trust her to let me know.
A couple of months ago, she called a Family Meeting. She’s famous for that. Over the years, she has called them on a number of critical topics. She called one when she discovered that, as far as she could tell, other mothers did not have to go to meetings. She called one when she decided that her father and I did not kiss in public enough. She regretted calling that one. She called one to make an argument for a cell phone on the basis of personal safety. I knew we were in for a doozy when she opened this particular Family Meeting with “OK, don’t say anything until you hear all the details. Promise you will keep an open mind.” I could feel the steel doors shutting on the panic room in my mama mind. She wanted to take a trip with one of her best friends to a city 2700 miles away. While she would be staying with family, they would have a lot of free time to explore the city and sit on the beach on their own. Slam. Deadbolt. Bar lock. And then I remembered and said, “Oh, sweetie, I don’t think we are really ready for that. Do you?” I thought I had her. Unlike me ten years ago, though, she replied, “Oh. Heck yes, we are ready for that!” After lengthy deliberations, her father and I decided that, though this was a big and scary step for us, she was ready. She’s a smart kid with good judgment and so are her friends. This was a chance to explore independence with a safety net. She would be staying with family friends. This step was not on my timeline. I was counting on 6 more months before she was in a different city on her own. It was definitely on her timeline, though. She was ready. I knew I could trust that. This trip was as much about knowing she was ready, as it was about knowing that we are ready. Ready to let go. Ready to trust that she can take care of herself. Ready to trust her to ask for help when she needs it. Ready to trust her to work things out on her own in her own way. I do think we are ready for that.
I selected this picture because it was her first time rowing at the Brentwood Regatta. She was staying with the team and I loved that she was rowing. That was until I looked out at the ocean bay she was racing on. But once again, she knew she was ready and she was right. I had to trust her and I am glad I did.
(1/800 sec., f/6.3, 600 mm, 800 ISO)