In these globalized times, it’s natural that when children come of age they start to travel on their own. They have their own itineraries, they visit their own friends, and, best of all, they carry their own credit cards.
It’s a moment celebrated with resounding pride and quiet relief, because it means that from now on within the family bureaucracy, the parents are not the only ones in charge of the leisure department.
It’s also a bittersweet moment, like everything related to our sons and daughters’ arrival to adulthood. However destined for success they may be, they will also experience failures, sometimes spectacular ones, and as parents we can’t do anything more than apply a warm compress to lessen the pain of the bruises resulting from their falls.
That is life. When you least expect it, your kids decide that they are big enough to drink in bars, and perhaps also to go and live two oceans away, if only perhaps temporarily.
I pondered all of this while helping my eldest daughter pack for a trip that will be a long one, and take her far away. Aware of the damaging effect hovering “helicopter parents” have on their teenage children, many universities promote study abroad in a foreign country, at least for a semester. I must hover a lot, because my daughter decided to go to China.
While checking off the list of visas, health insurance cards and emergency contacts, a lifetime of travel together with my daughter flashed through my mind. The trip to Cordoba, in Argentina, when she was only a month and a half old that in our post-natal haze my husband and I decided was a great idea. The long flights to and from Hong Kong, whose routes, charted over the North Pole to save time, cause a hypnotic effect; after hours staring at the infinite whiteness you forget where you came from and where you’re going.
The camping trips at the foot of Mount Fuji in Japan, where we spent half the night battling mosquitos and the other half fighting with each other for space in the tent. The best memories were of beach and sun, and also of the days when we did absolutely nothing.
Once children take their first big trip on their own, one chapter ends and another begins. It’s an indication that from now on, many other destinations will compete for their time and attention.
In the end, where they’re headed to doesnt matter; what’s important is that they never forget the way home.