Today was my wonderful oldest daughter’s sixteenth birthday! When I think back on the morning she was gone, it doesn’t seem like that long ago at all.
Since we usually have nice family celebrations for each person in our family and we obviously can’t do that with her so far away, I wanted her to know from the very start of the day how much we were thinking of her. So I stayed up until after midnight to make the call (there’s a seven hour difference in time zones), and she had just woken up a few minutes before I called so the timing worked out perfectly! My husband called her from work later on in the morning, and then all the other kids and I called her back in the early afternoon (night for her) and all together sang a very vigorous rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ to her. So she got calls throughout the day.
I mentioned last week that I was chagrined that despite my efforts, none of our cards or gifts were going to reach dd in time for her birthday. Then a few days ago, I decided to give her a special birthday surprise that I could be assured would reach her on time!
Since dd left to study in Israel in September, I’ve had a vague wishful kind of feeling about wanting to go and visit her. Last week, I had a sudden bolt of determination to stop being wishful and start taking action towards that goal. My motivation came not from the desire to take a long trip involving lots of complicated childcare arrangements and expenses that fall well outside of our usual budget, but from the rock solid knowledge that this would be a powerful deposit in dd’s emotional bank account, and with her being away for an extended time, now is a particularly important time to make a deposit like that.
As kids get older, they don’t need us any less. A common mistake I see is that parents step back at times that they need to step forward, thinking that their children need independence and to spread their wings, convinced that their input as parents isn’t that critical any more. This is so backward. The relationship you have with your child should be the most important thing that they have (until they get married), and if it isn’t, it’s your job as a parent to invest in it. Even if you have a strong relationship, relationships require ongoing care and investment. You can’t coast on last year’s relationship and think it will be as good as when you were really making active efforts to build the connection with your child.
So for me, this trip is about being congruent with my deepest convictions about what parenting is about. And I decided to commit to making this trip in two months, and trust that I will be sent all that I need for it to happen in that time frame. It’s going to be really interesting watching how it all plays out!
Even though I made the decision last week, contacted the head of her program, etc, I waited until this morning to tell her so it would be a special announcement for her birthday. She was so surprised and happy when I told her I’d be coming, and I went to sleep after our call so glad that I made this decision.
I was torn about wanting to surprise her – part of me wanted to show up at her dorm without giving her a clue that anything was in the works. But dh and dd14 both said they thought it would be better to tell her, and I agreed. I think then looking forward to the visit becomes part of the experience for her, rather than the brief trip itself. Dd16 at first said she wished I would have surprised her, but by the time she spoke to dd14 later in the day, she changed her mind and said she’s really glad that we told her! I’m so, so looking forward to spending time with her.